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US vital statistics system, major activities and developments, 1950-1995


The early history of the vital statistics system was presented in detail in Vital Statistics of the United States, Volume I, 1950. This earlier document is reprinted in this publication in appendix II. That report begins with the early collection and preservation of registration records as legal evidence of the occurrence of the event, primarily for use in protecting individual rights. It then describes the era in which death records by cause became recognized as essential for control of epidemics and for other public health interests. The report goes on to cover how welfare legislation of the 1930’s and emergency World War II legislation of the 1940’s brought about an unprecedented demand by individuals for their birth certificates.

Included in the earlier report is a description of the long, hard-fought, and often discouraging campaign of individuals, associations, and State and Federal agencies to bring about uniform registration laws and reporting forms that could not only serve the increasing needs of individuals for their records but also provide data for statistical analysis at all levels of government. The establishment, development, and completion of the registration areas designed to provide national birth and death statistics and the early efforts that ultimately led to establishment of similar registration areas for providing marriage and divorce data are described. The report traces the Federal function in vital statistics from its origin in the Bureau of the Census to its placement in the National Office of Vital Statistics in the Public Health Service in 1946.

The purpose of this report is to pick up where the 1950 report ended and describe further developments and major activities and accomplishments that occurred from 1950 through 1995. Most of the information included was obtained from or based upon material contained in government reports.

The report was prepared by National Center for Health Statistics of the United States, in 1997.


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