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Probabilistic Projection of Subnational Total Fertility

Hana Sevcikova and Adrian Elmes Raftery

January 2017 CSSS Working Paper #158



We consider the problem of probabilistic projection of the total fertility rate (TFR) for subnational regions. We seek a method that is consistent with the UN's recently adopted Bayesian method for probabilistic TFR projections for all countries, and works well for all countries. We assess various possible methods using subnational TFR data for 47 countries. We find that the method that performs best in terms of out-of-sample predictive perfor- mance and also in terms of reproducing the within-country correlation in TFR is a method that scales the national trajectory by a region-specific scale factor that is allowed to vary slowly over time. This supports the hypothesis of Watkins (1990, 1991) that within-country TFR converges over time in response to country-specific factors, and extends the Watkins hypothesis to the last 50 years and to a much wider range of countries around the world.

Keywords: Total fertility rate, Subnational projections, Autoregressive model, Bayesian hierarchical model, Scaling model, Correlation.