National Vital Statistics System


Age-Adjusted Death Rates for Selected Causes, Death Registration States, 1900-32, and United States, 1933-98

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HIST293 lists age-adjusted death rates per 100,000 standard million population (2000 standard) for selected causes of death. Age-adjusted death rates are used to compare relative mortality risks across groups and over time; they are indexes rather than direct measures. Causes of death are tabulated for the race categories all other, black (in some cases), and white. Selected causes include such major conditions as heart disease, cancer, and stroke. Additional causes will be added for the 1900-59 period over time.

These tables span many of the years for which the National Vital Statistics System has been producing mortality data. The primary publication series for disseminating mortality data is Vital Statistics of the United States (VSUS), which may be obtained at federal government depository libraries. VSUS remains the prime source for numbers of deaths and for a description of the nature, sources, and qualifications of the data. Rates, however, are recalculated as denominators are revised, and therefore, rates published in VSUS are superceded by other publications including these tables.

The most detailed description of the data can be found in the Technical Appendix of VSUS for each individual year. The most recent Technical Appendices are available online. Other important publications include Hetzel AM. History and organization of the vital statistics system. National Center for Health Statistics. 1997, which provides a comprehensive summary of changes in the National Vital Statistics System. Three publications presenting long term trend data and discussions of the qualifications of data can be obtained from federal government depository libraries:

Between 1900 and 1932, data are available for a changing number of Death Registration States. The specific States included by year are shown at the end of the 1900-1939 data tables and in Hetzel (1997). Beginning with 1933, all States are part of the National Vital Statistics System, and the tables henceforth are labeled “United States.”

The categories of race available and typically used in publications has changed over time. Some of the race terminology in these tables has been changed to be more consistent with current language; however, the data are only available as originally produced. So, data are not available for the black population consistently before 1968, and not at all before 1960 in these tables. The Technical Appendices and the report “Quality of Death Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin: A Summary of Current Research, 1999” Cdc-pdf[PDF – 310 KB] present qualifying information on reporting problems with race data.

Cause-of-death titles change from time-to-time. This reflects the periodic revisions to the classification (the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10, ICD-9, and earlier revisions) used to show cause of death and the specific list used for ranking causes. The classification is revised to incorporate and capture changes in medical knowledge. The revisions, in some instances, do create breaks in the comparability of a cause of death between two years. The Hetzel (1997) publication lists comparability study reports which should be examined in connection with trend analyses that cross ICD revisions. Comparability data will be added online over time.

Unpublished Tables

Beginning with 1999 data, the National Center for Health Statistics, CDC, adopted a different population standard for age-adjusting death rates Cdc-pdf[PDF – 260 KB] in the United States. Age-adjusted death rates were calculated using the year 2000 standard using the following source documents: age-specific death rates from unpublished worktables from CDC/National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, Mortality data; data from the Special Reports (1956) publication; and electronic data tapes.

Special Analysis Tables of 1979-98 Data Using an 113 Cause List

Page last reviewed: November 6, 2015