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 - Natality


Sponsoring agency

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


Reference date



The birth 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 them to the National Center for Health Statistics for consolidation into a national database. The standard certificate of birth contains a wide variety of information about the mother and child, including maternal and infant health characteristics, information on tobacco and alcohol use during pregnancy, obstetric procedures, method of delivery, and abnormal conditions of the newborn. The race or national origin of the mother and father also is obtained and, beginning in 1989, the certificate added a Hispanic identifier for the mother and father. This information is not obtained for the child.


The following two items, completed separately for the mother and the father, appear on the Certificate of Live Birth:

  • 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:

  • White Japanese
    Black Hawaiian
    American Indian Filipino
    Chinese 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 births as Vietnamese, Asian Indian, Korean, Samoan, Guamanian, and other API groups. Subgroup data for Hispanics are available for all states and are tabulated.

Interviewing policy

Registration of births 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 births reported for the respective race/ethnic group.

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

Data on births, by selected race/ethnic group, are released regularly in published and electronic form, including the Internet. NCHS has issued reports dealing with births of Hispanic origin, which show subgroup detail for Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Central and South American mothers. More limited data are available for the API populations because population data are available only in Census years, not annually. However, numbers and percent distributions of births by all characteristics are available for the API subgroups. A public use file is provided annually, which includes the demographic information from all 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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