The prototypical Lee–Carter mortality model is characterized by a single common time factor that loads differently across age groups. In this paper, we propose a parametric factor model for the term structure of mortality where multiple factors are designed to influence the age groups differently via parametric loading functions. We identify four different factors: a factor common for all age groups, factors for infant and adult mortality, and a factor for the “accident hump” that primarily affects mortality of relatively young adults and late teenagers. Since the factors are identified via restrictions on the loading functions, the factors are not designed to be orthogonal but can be dependent and can possibly cointegrate when the factors have unit roots. We suggest two estimation procedures similar to the estimation of the dynamic Nelson–Siegel term structure model. First, a two-step nonlinear least squares procedure based on cross-section regressions together with a separate model to estimate the dynamics of the factors. Second, we suggest a fully specified model estimated by maximum likelihood via the Kalman filter recursions after the model is put on state space form. We demonstrate the methodology for US and French mortality data. We find that the model provides a good fit of the relevant factors and, in a forecast comparison with a range of benchmark models, it is found that, especially for longer horizons, variants of the parametric factor model have excellent forecast performance.
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