Max Planck Research School - Course 182 - Spatial Demography

Winter Semester 2012/2013

Applied Methods of Public Health and Mortality Research using R

Dr. Alyson van Raalte and Dr. Virginia Zarulli

Start: 4 February 2013
End: 14 February 2013
Location:MPI Rostock


Course description:

This course is aimed at mortality researchers looking to improve their skills with the R statistical software. The course is structured around using R for the following demographic and public health topics:

Data handling:

Introduction to basic plotting techniques using HMD Data:

Basic comparisons between populations:

Life table construction:

Other longevity measures based on the life table:

Cause-of-death analysis:

Decomposition analysis:

Using R for survival analysis:

Advanced plotting:


The course will run over a 9-day period, with two 1.5 hour computer lab sessions scheduled for most days. Students should prepare to work full time (40 hours per week) for the duration of the course.

Course prerequisites:

Students should be familiar with basic life table construction and survival analysis concepts. Ideally students would also have a basic understanding of cause-of-death analysis and decomposition techniques (Chapters 3 and 4 in Preston et al., 2001). Some basic knowledge of R is desirable, but not a prerequisite.


Successful completion of three short assignments, which students can work on individually or in pairs, serves as the examination in this course.

General readings:

Methods Protocol for the Human Mortality Database

Preston S., Heuveline P. and Guillot M. (2001). Demography: Measuring and Modeling Population Processes. Wiley-Blackwell.

A selection of articles and slides used in the MP 383 course of previous semesters will be made available to students during the course, courtesy of Vladimir Shkolnikov

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