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National Vital Statistics System-Natality


Vital statistics natality data are a fundamental source of demographic, geographic, and medical and health information on all births occurring in the United States. This is one of the few sources of comparable health-related data for small geographic areas over an extended period of time. The data are used to present the characteristics of babies and their mothers, track trends such as birth rates for teenagers, and compare natality trends with those in other countries.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics
Data Years Available: 
1915-present; not all states participated before 1933.
Mode of Collection: 
Hospitals and attendants at delivery are responsible for completing birth certificates. Demographic information is provided by the mother. Medical and health information is generally based on hospital and other records.
Selected Content: 
Place of birth, prenatal care, demographic information and health status of the baby, demographic information of mother and father, pregnancy history of mother, medical and health data about the delivery, pregnancy, and mother.
Population Covered: 
All registered births occurring in the United States.

The National Vital Statistics System Natality component (NVSS-N) obtains information on deaths from the registration offices of each of the 50 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands. By law, registration of deaths is the responsibility of the professional attendant at birth, generally a physician or midwife. The birth certificate must be filed with the local registrar in the district in which the birth occurred, within a time period prescribed by law (generally 1 to 10 days). State birth certificates are modeled on a U.S. Standard Certificate that is revised periodically. States provide the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) with birth records in electronic format.

Response Rates and Sample Size: 

In 2007, over 4.3 million births were reported in the U.S.

Interpretation Issues: 

Data on selected items based on the 2003 revision to the Standard Certificate of Birth are not comparable with data based on previous revisions of the Standard Certificate. Items affected by this change include mother's educational attainment, tobacco use during pregnancy, and prenatal care. Not all states have adopted the 2003 revision at this time.


National Center for Health Statistics. Health United States 2009: With Special Feature on Medical Technology. Hyattsville, Maryland. 2010; pp 476-480.