Years Available
1900 to present; not all states participated prior to 1933.
Mode of Collection
Census: records of all deaths registered in the United States.
Vital statistics mortality data are a fundamental source of demographic, geographic, and cause-of-death information. This is one of the few sources of comparable health-related data for small geographic areas over an extended time period. The data are used to present characteristics of those dying in the United States, to determine life expectancy, and to compare mortality trends with those in other countries.
Selected Content
Demographic information about the decedent and medical information on cause of death.
Population Covered
The U.S. population. Death data for the entire United States refer to events occurring within the United States; data for geographic areas are by place of residence.
The National Vital Statistics System Mortality component (NVSS-M) obtains information on deaths from the registration offices of each of the 50 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands. Death registration is a state function based in state law, while federal law mandates the collection and publication of statistics based on these death records. State death certificates are modeled on a U.S. Standard Certificate that is revised periodically. Death certificates are completed by physicians, coroners, medical examiners and funeral directors and are filed with state vital statistics offices. Demographic information is provided by the funeral director and is based on information supplied by an informant. Medical certification of the cause of death is provided by the physician, medical examiner, or coroner. States process and compile statistical files that are transmitted electronically to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics (CDC, NCHS). Software is available to automate coding of medical information on the death certificate, following World Health Organization rules specified in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
Response Rates and Sample Size
In 2018,a total of 2,839,205 resident deaths were registered in the United States. More than 99% of deaths occurring in the country are believed to be registered.
Interpretation Issues
The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) by which cause of death is coded and classified, is revised periodically. Because revisions of the ICD may cause discontinuities in trend data by cause of death, comparison of death rates across ICD revision should be done with caution and with reference to the comparability ratios. The Tenth Revision of the ICD (ICD-10) has been used since 1999. Revisions to the Standard Certificate of Death may also create discontinuities in classification and/or availability of selected data items.