The United States has collected vital statistics – data that describe births and deaths – for well over a century. Between 1880 and 1933, annual mortality statistics were collected for a national “registration area” consisting of a handful of cities and states; a similar area was instituted in 1915 for recording births. These annual numbers supplemented a national count of births and mortality taken at each decennial Census from 1850 through 1940. History buffs will enjoy browsing these historical reports, which can be downloaded in full from the CDC, here.
The National Center for Health Statistics was instituted as a branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1950. NCHS disseminates an annual tally of live births, deaths, and cause of death taken from individual records. Today, the data remain essential to public health efforts to prevent infant mortality and control both infectious and noncommunicable diseases. PolicyMap users can explore some of the most salient birth and death indicators alongside key socioeconomic factors such as race and poverty status.
In the Health tab, Infant and Maternal Health indicators from NCHS have been updated for 2009 and 2010 where available. Also new on PolicyMap are the number and rate of annual deaths (mortality) from the four leading causes of death in the United States: coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases. These indicators are available for the years 2000 through 2010. Strict privacy requirements for public health records mean that many areas throughout the country will not have data available due to suppression; areas with higher population, such as states and counties within major metropolitan areas, tend to have better availability.
Read more about the history of the United States’ Vital Statistics Program in the CDC report: U.S. Vital Statistics System Major Activities and Developments: 1950-95. Get more information about NCHS data and indicators from our Data Directory.