Bayesian Hierarchical Modeling of Demographic and Climate Change Indicators

Speaker
Peiran Liu

Bayesian hierarchical modeling is a powerful tool for demography and climate science. In this talk we will focus on its use for accounting for uncertainty about past demographic quantities in population projections. Since the 1940s, population projections have in most cases been produced using the deterministic cohort component method. However, in 2015, for the first time, in a major advance, the United Nations issued official probabilistic population projections for all countries based on Bayesian hierarchical models for total fertility and life expectancy. The estimates of these models and the resulting projections are conditional on the UN's official estimates of past values. However, these past values are themselves uncertain, particularly for the majority of the world's countries that do not have longstanding high-quality vital registration systems, when they rely on surveys and censuses with their own biases and measurement errors. This paper is a first attempt to remedy this for total fertility rates, by extending the UN model for projecting the future to take account of uncertainty about past values. This is done by adding an additional level to the hierarchical model to represent the multiple data sources, rather than the UN estimates of the past values, in each case estimating their bias and measurement error variance. We assess the method by out-of-sample predictive validation. While the prediction intervals produced by the current method (which does not account for this source of uncertainty) have somewhat less than nominal coverage, we find that our proposed method achieves close to nominal coverage. The prediction intervals become wider for countries for which the estimates of past total fertility rates rely heavily on surveys rather than on vital registration data.