Assessment of Major Federal Data Sets for Analyses of Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander Subgroups and Native Americans: Inventory of Selected Existing Federal Databases. National Vital Statistics System - Mortality


Sponsoring agency

National Center for Health Statistics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Department of Health and Human Services

Reference date



The death component of the national vital statistics system in the United States is comprehensive, covering all political jurisdictions in the country, as well as Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. National statistics derived from the system include the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and data are available for the other jurisdictions as well. The system is cooperative in the sense that local registration offices receive notices of vital events and are responsible for issuing certified copies of vital records (e.g., birth and death certificates), which are state adaptations of the model certificates (U.S. Standard Certificates) developed jointly by the states and the Public Health Service. The states, having received copies of the certificates from the registration officials, process and send coded statistical information without individual identification to the National Center for Health Statistics for consolidation into a national database. The standard certificate of death contains medical and demographic information about the deceased, including age, race, sex, Hispanic origin, marital status, occupation and industry, educational attainment, place of death, and causes of death.


The following two items appear on the Standard Certificate of Death, and are completed for the decedent:

  • Was decedent of Hispanic Origin?
    (Specify No or Yes—If Yes, specify Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc.)

    Race-American Indian, Black, White, etc. (specify)

For statistical purposes, the following categories for race are separately identified:

American Indian (incl. Eskimo and Aleut)
Other Asian or Pacific Islander


At present, a total of nine states, which contain about two-thirds of the U.S. population of these additional API groups, code deaths to additional API subgroups, including Vietnamese, Asian Indian, Korean, Samoan, Guamanian, and other API groups. Subgroup data for Hispanics are available for all states and are tabulated.

Interviewing policy

Death registration is an administrative system, thus not requiring the use of interviewers.

Sample size

The data shown in Appendix Tables A-1 to A-3 represent the total numbers of deaths reported for each race/ethnic group.

Publications of data for Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Native Americans

Data on deaths, by selected race/ethnic group, are released regularly in published and electronic form, including the Internet. NCHS has issued reports dealing with deaths of Hispanic origin, which show subgroup detail for Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Central and South American decedents, as well as a report on deaths for API subgroups. A public use file, containing the universe of death records is provided annually, including the demographic and medical information from the unit records.

Revised race/ethnic definitions

NCHS has convened a panel of experts to develop a revised, standard certificate to serve as a model for states. It is hoped that this effort will result in race/ethnic detail consistent with the revised OMB standards for collecting race/ethnic data. The timing of the revision is yet to be determined.

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