Report Prepared for the Committee on Population Statistics, Population Association of America, October 2007
Vital and health statistics have been a core concern of demography since the very beginning. The forerunners of the field could not have made their contributions without them: Malthus focused on birth and death rates; John Snow on spatial patterns of disease. In the contemporary United States, these statistics are the mission of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which is charged with collecting, analyzing, and disseminating objective data on the health of the U.S. population and the vital events – births, deaths, marriages, and divorces – that contribute to population change. The statistical systems that produce these data are an essential feature of the country’s statistical infrastructure, and a wide range of organizations and users rely on their dependability, quality, and completeness. NCHS data are used by the Census Bureau in evaluating its data and informing its population estimates and projections; by the business community in planning marketing strategies, by state and local governments, by federal policy makers, and by demographers, epidemiologists, health services researchers, and other scientists, many of whom are members of PAA. Among the data sources used regularly by PAA members are natality and mortality statistics, the linked infant death and birth files, the National Death Index, the National Survey of Family Growth, the National Health Interview Survey, and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
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