- Psych 1924
Title: Statistical challenges in casualty estimation
An accurate understanding of the magnitude and dynamics of casualties during a conflict is important for a variety of reasons, including historical memory, retrospective policy analysis, and assigning culpability for human rights violations. However, during times of conflict and their aftermath, collecting a complete or representative sample of casualties can be difficult if not impossible. One solution is to apply population estimation methods -- sometimes called capture-recapture or multiple systems estimation -- to multiple incomplete lists of casualties to estimate the number of deaths not recorded on any of the lists. I give an introduction to the procedures by which population estimation is performed in the context of conflict mortality, which mainly consists of a record linkage step followed by capture-recapture estimation. I then describe some of my recent work in this area, which is directed at elucidating the limitations of these statistical methods and proposing variants with better properties. I will conclude with a discussion of open questions in this challenging area of statistics.
James Johndrow is a Stein Fellow in the Department of Statistics at Stanford University.