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National Vital Statistics System

NCHS Fact Sheet, January 2016


About NCHS

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) is the nation’s principal health statistics agency, providing data to identify and address health issues. NCHS compiles statistical information to help guide public health and health policy decisions.

Collaborating with other public and private health partners, NCHS uses a variety of data collection mechanisms to obtain accurate information from multiple sources. This process provides a broad perspective on the population’s health, influences on health, and health outcomes.


National Vital Statistics System

The National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) provides the nation’s official vital statistics data, and is the oldest, most successful example of intergovernmental data sharing in public health. Through NVSS, the 57 vital registration jurisdictions (50 states, New York City, District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories) send NCHS information on the 6.5 million birth, death, and fetal death events occurring each year. NCHS collects, analyzes, and disseminates these data to create the nation’s official vital statistics.

NVSS provides the most complete and continuous data available to public health officials at the national, state and local levels, and in the private sector. NVSS vital statistics are a critical component of the national health information system, providing data to monitor progress toward achieving important health goals.

Selected key health indicators produced by NVSS include:

  • Teen births and birth rates
  • Prenatal care and preterm birth
  • Risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes
  • Infant mortality rates
  • Life expectancy
  • Leading causes of death


Examples of NVSS Data

Life expectancy

Life expectancy at birth represents the average number of years that a group of infants would live if the group was to experience, throughout life, the age-specific death rates present in the year of birth.

  • In 2014, life expectancy at birth was 78.8 years for the total U.S. population—81.2 years for females and 76.4 years for males, the same as in 2013. Over time, life expectancy for females has been consistently higher than life expectancy for males.
  • Life expectancy at age 65 for the total population was 19.3 years, the same as in 2013. Life expectancy at age 65 was 20.5 years for females, unchanged from 2013, and 18.0 years for males, a 0.1-year increase from 2013.


SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality.


Teenage births

The teenage birth rate is an important indicator of population change and helps describe patterns of early family formation. Among women of childbearing age, teenagers are least likely to receive timely prenatal care, are more likely to smoke, and are more likely to have a low birthweight infant, all of which lead to poorer health outcomes for the children of teen mothers.

  • The birth rate for teenagers aged 15–19 declined 9% from 2013 to 2014, to 24.2 births per 1,000 females aged 15–19, yet another historic low for the nation.
  • Among race and ethnicity groups, birth rates for teenagers aged 15–19 declined for all groups from 2013 to 2014, with rates down 7% for non-Hispanic white, 9% for Hispanic, 11% for Asian or Pacific Islander and non-Hispanic black, and 12% for American Indian or Alaska Native teenagers.
  • The birth rate for females aged 15–19 went down by 50% or more between 2007 and 2014 in Colorado, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.


SOURCE: CDC/NCHS, National Vital Statistics System.

Additional findings from NVSS

Birth data

  • The cesarean delivery rate declined for the second straight year to 32.2% of all U.S. births in 2014.
  • The twin birth rate in 2014 was 33.9 per 1,000 births, a new high for the United States; the triplet and higher-order multiple birth rate dropped 5% from 2013 to 2014, to 113.5 per 100,000 births.

Infant mortality

  • The infant mortality rate declined 2.3% to a record low of 582.1 infant deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014 from 596.1 in 2013.
  • The 5 leading causes of infant death in 2014 include congenital malformations, low birthweight, maternal complications, sudden infant death syndrome, and unintentional injuries.

Leading causes of death

  • In 2014, the l0 leading causes of death—heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide—remained the same as in 2013. The 10 leading causes accounted for 73.8% of all deaths in the United States in 2014.


Challenges and Future Opportunities

NCHS continues to work with NVSS partners to modernize the technology infrastructure of the U.S. vital statistics system by moving all states from outdated paper-based systems to Web-based systems integrated with electronic health records and public health information systems, and re-engineering the NCHS automated coding system. These technologies will allow for rapid compilation and use of these critical data sources, and will enable the vital statistics system to more effectively contribute to (1) the public health surveillance of disease outbreaks at the community, state, and national levels; (2) health services research; and (3) public health policy decisions at all levels of government.

For further information about NCHS and its programs, visit
For further information on NVSS, visit