Compressed Mortality File
On this Page
- Data Release
- Database Description
- Mortality Data File Description
- Population File Description
- List of Data File Variables at a Glance
- Data File Technical Characteristics
- Geographic Coverage
- Data Availability
The Compressed Mortality File (CMF) is comprised of a county-level national mortality file and a corresponding county–level national population file. The mortality file of the CMF contains a select subset of the variables contained in the detailed annual mortality files. Currently, the CMF spans the years 1968- 2014 and is divided into four parts: 1968-78, 1979-88, 1989-98, and 1999-2014. The first two parts are public use files and are available on a CD-ROM (CMF 1968-88 Series 20 No. 2A). The other two parts can be made available on CD-ROMs to researchers under Part II Use Agreements (CMF 1989-98 Series 20 No. 2E and CMF 1999-2014 Series 20 No. 2T). The CMF is also available on CDC WONDER as an online interactive query data base (see Interactive Data Bases and Tables). The CMF is a relatively compact file as it contains only a select set of variables.
Mortality data on the CMF are based on the NCHS annual detailed mortality files that include a record for every death of a U.S. resident recorded in the United States (except 1972, for which year the data are based on a 50 percent sample of deaths and weighted by a factor of 2). The annual detailed mortality files contain an extensive set of variables derived from the death certificates. For the CMF, the source data records were condensed by retaining only a select set of variables: (1) State and county of residence, (2) year of death (rather than the full date of death), (3) race (1968-98: recoded to white, black, other; 1999-present: recoded to white, black, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian or Pacific Islander), (4) sex, (5) for 1999-present: Hispanic origin (not Hispanic or Latino, Hispanic or Latino) (6) age group at death (specific age recoded to 16 age groups), (7) underlying cause of death (4-digit ICD code), and (8) 69 ICD-8, 72 ICD-9, 113 ICD-10 cause-of-death recode (depending on the data year). The number of records was reduced by aggregating records with identical values for these seven variables and adding a count variable to the aggregate record indicating the number of identical records.
The population estimates on the CMF are based on Bureau of the Census estimates of total U.S., State, and county resident populations. The 1968 and 1969 State and county population estimates were calculated by NCHS using linear extrapolation. The 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000. and 2010 population estimates are April 1 modified census counts. The estimates for 1971-79, 1981-89, 1991-99, and 2001-09 are intercensal estimates of July 1 resident populations. The estimates for 2011- present are postcensal estimates of the July 1 resident population. Note that the estimates for 1991-present are based on bridged-race categories. The population estimates on the CMF are by geographic unit (total United States, state, and county), year, race (1968-1998: white, black, other; 1999 - present: white, black, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian or Pacific Islander), sex, Hispanic origin (1999-present: not Hispanic or Latino, Hispanic or Latino), and age group (13 age groups). To permit the calculation of infant mortality rates, NCHS live-birth data are included on the file.
|Variable||Mortality file||Population file|
|FIPS state code||X||X|
|FIPS county code||X||X|
Under 1 day
Under 1 year and live births
|Year of death||1968-present||1968-present|
|ICD code for underlying cause-of-death||
1968-78: 69 causes
1979-98: 72 causes
1999-present: 113 causes
X This variable is available on the file.
--- This variable is not available on the file.
|Files||Record length||Number of records|
|Files||Record length||Number of records|
The CMF includes records for all counties in the 50 States and the District of Columbia by county of residence. Changes in county geography (addition and deletion of counties, and boundary changes) and associated changes in the FIPS codes occur from time to time. Some county boundary changes result in substantial increases or decreases in the population of the affected county and hence impact death counts, population estimates, and death rates for that county. Changes to counties were implemented in the vital records system (and hence on the CMF) in 1989, 1994, and 2003 and 2014. See Appendix E of the file documentation for details.
The suggested citation to appear at the bottom of all tables is as follows:
Source: National Center for Health Statistics (Compressed Mortality File range of years of file:e.g., 1968-88, 1989-98, 1999-2015)
When cited in a bibliography, the citation should read:
For CMF 1999-2015:
National Center for Health Statistics. Compressed Mortality File, 1999-2015 (machine readable data file and documentation, CD‑ROM Series 20, No. 2U) as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Hyattsville, Maryland. 2016.
For CMF 1989-1998:
National Center for Health Statistics. Compressed Mortality File, 1989-98 (machine readable data file and documentation, CD‑ROM Series 20, No. 2E) as compiled from data provided by the 57 vital statistics jurisdictions through the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. Hyattsville, Maryland. 2007.
The Compressed Mortality File (CMF) is updated annually when the final annual mortality data becomes available. Release dates vary from year to year.
Over the years, confidentiality standards have changed for the public release of geographic detail on vital statistics data files. See NCHS Data Release Policy for details. As a result of these changes, the CMF with data for 1968-88 is a public-use file; the CMF with data for 1989 and later is a restricted-use file.
A.CMF 1968-1988 (Series 20, No 2A) – This public-use data file is available:
- In query page format on CDC Wonder (see Interactive Data Tools and Query Systems).
- Downloadable data files:
- On CD-ROM, send a request to firstname.lastname@example.org
B. CMF 1989-98 and CMF 1999-present – The CMF with data for 1989 onwards is a restricted-use file because of restrictions on release of sub-national mortality data. Data for 1989 onwards are available:
- In query page format on CDC WONDER with some data suppression in effect for subnational data (death counts and rates are suppressed if the number of deaths is less than 10).
- Researchers may apply for the CMF 1989-98 and onwards by following the process outlined below. Data for approved projects will be provided on CD at no cost. Our current agreement with the states on the re-release of restricted data requires a review of all such data requests by the National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems (NAPHSIS) which represents state vital registrars. The review by NAPHSIS is conducted prior to the NCHS review and includes both federal and non-federal requests for restricted data files.
Application process for CMF 1989-98 onwards
- The researcher submits a completed project review form to the NAPHSIS review team. Some states have laws, regulations or policies that prohibit release of certain data items. In the course of the review the NAPHSIS review team will determine whether the request contravenes any of these state limitations. The researcher will be notified by NAPHSIS of their decision on the data request. NCHS will also be apprised of the NAPHSIS review decision, at which time NCHS will conduct its usual review.
- If the proposal is approved, NCHS will send the researcher (and his/her contractors if Federal) a Data Use Agreement. All data users associated with the research must agree to the conditions of usage, including the following:
(1) Researcher and associates will use a data file only for the approved project.
(2) The researcher will return the compressed files to NCHS and destroy all derived files at the end of the designated project period.
(3) The data files cannot be shared with any staff not listed in the data use agreement, or with anyone outside the requesting organization.
(4) The data may not be accessed (directly or remotely) by anyone located outside the United States.
3. If the project proposal is denied, alternative access may be available through the NCHS Research Data Center (RDC) which has specific procedures to follow for controlled access to data files. Use of the RDC entails costs to the data requestor. See the RDC website for specific procedures.
- File Documentation for CMF 1999-2011 [PDF - 759 KB]
- File Documentation for CMF 1999-2015 is available on request
Users of the CMF on CDC WONDER can quickly and easily obtain injury deaths and rates according to the external cause-of-injury matrix. Mechanism and intent are separate variables in the CMF on CDC WONDER allowing users to tabulate by one or the other, or both. In addition, this new feature allows for comparisons to non-injury causes of death. For additional information about the matrix approach to categorizing injury deaths, see ICD Injury Matrices.
Users of the CMF on CDC WONDER can obtain death rates and counts (and maps and charts) for counties grouped according to a six-level urban-rural classification scheme. The most urban category in the scheme consists of central counties in metropolitan areas of 1 million or more and the most rural category consists of non-metropolitan counties with no urban clusters of 10,000 or more population. For additional information about the urban-rural classification, please see NCHS Urban-Rural Classification Scheme for Counties.
Users of the CMF on CDC WONDER can quickly and easily obtain maps and charts to graphically display death counts or rates for requested cross tabulations. Maps are available for either the United States (showing state or county death counts and rates) or for individual states (showing county data). Bar charts, line charts, and pie charts can be requested for 2-way cross tabulations.
- CMF on CDC WONDER
- Detailed mortality data (1999-2012) on CDC WONDER
- Multiple cause of death data (1999-2012) on CDC WONDER
- Healthy People - DATA 2020
- CMF on Google
Deborah D. Ingram, Ph.D.
Office of Analysis and Epidemiology
National Center for Health Statistics
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
3311 Toledo Rd., Room 6211
Hyattsville, Maryland 20782
- Page last reviewed: February 21, 2017
- Page last updated: February 21, 2017
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