Vital statistics definition

Vital statistics are government-kept statistics, information, and civil registration, of different life events. In the United States, the civil registration system compiles data contained in individual civil registration records to create statistical outputs known as vital statistics.

The events recorded as vital statistics include:

  • Numbers and rates of births
  • Key characteristics of births, such as births by sex, location, and maternal age
  • Numbers and rates of deaths
  • Deaths by key characteristics such as age, sex, location, and cause of death
  • Fetal deaths
  • Marriages
  • Divorces

Certain jurisdictions also record vital statistics of domestic partnerships or civil unions.

Uses of Vital Statistics

These stats refer to data about life events that are reported locally and become compiled into national data. Annual reports, collecting detailed vital statistics data, including natality, mortality, marriage, and divorce are available for download.

The National Center for Health Statistics supplies the necessary data in order to identify and address health issues. The statistical information compiled by NCHS helps determine public health and health policy decisions made in the United States.

The data collated by NCHS and its public and private health collaborators provides a broad perspective on the population’s health, influences on health, and health outcomes.

Vital statistics data have diverse uses, serving as a base for:

  • Public health
  • Social service
  • Economic planning
  • Program development
  • Tracking progress toward health goals

Who Keeps Vital Statistics in the US?

In the United States, vital statistics are kept by the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) and the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

The NVSS collects and establishes the standards and systems with which the NCHS collects and publishes the official vital statistics in the United States. The National Vital Statistics System provides the most complete and continuous data available to public health officials at the national, state, and local levels, and in the private sector.

Other sources of vital statistics

Aside from the annual report from NCHS, US vital statistics can also be obtained from:

  • Fertility of American Women from the Current Population Survey, Survey of Income and Program Participation, and the American Community Survey
  • Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (CDC’s WISQARS™)
  • Atlas of United States Mortality by Health Service Areas (HSAs)
  • American’s Families and Living Arrangements
  • Historical Statistics of the United States
  • Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States
  • US Decennial Life Tables
  • Vital Statistics Online Portal

Read more: Vital records offices