News outlets have been throwing around a number - 16% - That's what they say the odds of VP Palin becoming the first woman President of the US should McCain win the election in 2008. I brought up this number in a conversation, and was asked to back it up - so I went and looked at an actuarial table. Actuarial table gives odds on someone dying within the year, depending on age. John McCain will be 73 at time of swearing in. A 2004 actuarial table gives these odds for males of that age:
73-0.036086, 74-0.039506, 75-0.043415, 76-0.047789. Now, you can't just add these together, because if the person doesn't die when he's 73, he doesn't have a combined odds of dying at 73 and 74, he just has the remaining odds. To compute this, you take the odds of dying in year 1, and the odds of NOT dying at 73 multiplying by the next year, and so on.
Computing this way, you get a combined odds of dying between the ages of 73 and 76 (if you've already lived to 73) of 16.15%.
These odds are computed with an actuarial table on the Social Security Admin's web site.