Misreading life expectancy

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 Readers of blogs on The Economist’s website might expect an understanding of what life expectancy means.

 So they will have been slightly taken aback by a recent blog from Zambia that began confidently: “Visitors to Zambia who are pushing 40 face a sobering fact. Were they locals, statistically, they would be dead.”

Not so. Life expectancy at birth in Zambia is 38, but that doesn’t mean everybody over 38 is dead, either statistically or actually. The blog is headed, with unconscious irony, Some Puzzling Numbers.  Puzzling indeed.

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