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Data & Statistics
Vital Statistics

Vital Statistics Glossary

Definitions of the terms below may be useful in understanding how the Office of Vital Statistics reports data in its annual Summary and when using the interactive data tool.  Demographic and medical information is coded in general agreement with standards developed by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Age-Adjusted Death Rate:  Sum of age-specific death rates weighted by 2000 Projected US population in each age group (per 1,000 or per 100,000).

Age Group:  Age ranges in the Death Rates interactive tool are: less than 1; 1-14 years; 15-24 years; 25-34 years; 35-44 years; 45-54 years; 55-64 years; 65-74 years; 75-84 years; 85+ years.  These groups were also used for calculating age-adjusted rates. The age groups used for age adjustment in the Death/Mortality Trend interactive tool are: less than 25, 25 to 44, 45 to 64, 65 to 84 and 85+.

Ancestry:  Defined by National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) as the nationality, lineage, or country where the subject's ancestors were born before their arrival in the US. If a religious group is reported, NCHS instructions are to ask for the country of origin or nationality. In New York City, enough certificates are received with the ancestry reported as Jewish or Hebrew to warrant inclusion in data reported by Vital Statistics, notwithstanding the religious meaning of the terms.

Ancestry is usually reported by the mother on birth certificates and by a relative of the decedent on death certificates.

Birth Rate:  Number of live births per 1,000 population.  Age-specific birth rates (for example, women ages 15-25) are calculated as the number of live births per 1,000 women in age range.

Comparability Ratio: In 1999 the World Health Organization's10th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) came into effect. Since the death trend data straddle two ICD classification systems (from 9th revision to 10th revision) there will be instances where discontinuities in trends may be observed for specific causes. The Comparability Ratio measures the level of agreement between the classification regimes and is based on a double coding of conditions. A comparability ratio of 1 is indicative of agreement. A comparability ratio of 1.74 indicates that for the same cause ICD-10 would have 74% more cases than the ICD-9 classification.

Note that the comparability ratios reported are for crude rates, but the trends in the Death/Mortality Trend  interactive tool report age-adjusted rates (except for those for age-specific groups), so the comparability ratios are not directly applicable. Nevertheless, they provide a general measure of agreement across classification systems. For more information on comparability ratios, visit the National Center for Health Statistics.

Fertility Rate:  Number of live births per 1,000 women aged 15-44.

Cause of Death:  Class of one or more types of underlying cause of death, based on National Center for Health Statistics definitions.

Community District: Established by local law in 1975 and used to review and monitor quality-of-life issues for New York City neighborhoods.  There are 59 Community Districts in NYC, referred to by their borough and sequence number.  These are often used to assess the geographic distribution of some characteristics such as demographic, health-related or otherwise. For further information, please visit the NYC Department of City Planning. 

Crude Death Rate:  Total number of deaths in a given year relative to the total population for that year (per 1,000 or per 100,000).

Mortality by Cause:  Number of deaths due to a Cause of Death in a population each year.

Mother’s Marital Status:  NYC law prohibits the Health Department from recording the mother's marital status on the birth certificate. Since 1997, only the presence or absence of a father's name on the birth certificate and the filing of an acknowledgment of paternity, which is required when the mother and father are not legally married, have been used to estimate marital status. If a certificate is registered with the father's name and no acknowledgement of paternity, the mother is assumed to be married. Otherwise, the mother is assumed to be unmarried. This measure is computed for purposes of statistical analysis and reporting, but should be interpreted with caution.

Overall Mortality:  Number of deaths due to all causes in a defined population for a given period of time.

Population Data for Birth Rates:  The Birth Data interactive tool uses 2 different sets of denominators for rates. For all rates other than those by Community District, data are from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene neighborhood population estimates, modified from the US Census Bureau vintage population estimates, 2000-2007.

Community District birth and fertility rates use population data from the 2000 US Census.

Population Data for Death Rates:  The Death Data interactive tool uses data from the 2000 US Census after it has been evaluated by the NYC Department of City Planning.

Population Data for Death Trends:  The Death/Mortality Trend interactive tool uses unchallenged US Census estimates for New York City (files: STCH-icen1994 through STCH-icen1999, CC-EST2003-alldata through CC-EST2007-alldata). All estimates are for July 1st resident population for each year. For more information, visit the US Census.

Race /Ethnicity:    The categories were developed by the NYC Department of City Planning from the 2000 US Census, which allowed respondents to report more than one race for the first time.  They are: Non-Hispanic white; Non-Hispanic black; Hispanic; Asian and Pacific Islander; Other Race /Ethnicity, which includes non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native; non-Hispanic of some other race; and non-Hispanic of two or more races; and Unknown Race /Ethnicity.
 
Beginning January 1, 2003 NYC death certificates expanded the number of decedent race categories, allowing the selection of multiple races, in compliance with changes recommended by the National Center for Health Statistics in the U.S. Standard Certificate of Death. This resulted in an increase in Hispanic, Asian and Pacific Islander ethnicities, while non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black ethnicities declined. The number of unknown ethnicities also increased. Care should be taken when comparing race and ethnicity death data from 2003 and later with data from previous years.  Like ancestry, race is usually reported by a relative of the decedent on death certificates.

Beginning January 1, 2008 NYC birth certificates expanded the number of birth race categories.  Care should be taken when comparing race and ethnicity death data from 2008 and later with data from previous years.  Like ancestry, race is usually reported by the mother on birth certificates.

Top 10 Leading Causes of Mortality:  Number of deaths due to the top-10-ranking causes of death in a population each year.

United Hospital Fund (UHF) Neighborhood:  One of 42 geographic areas defined by a group of zip codes.  A map of these areas may be found here.

Underlying Cause of Death:  Diseases or injuries that initiated the sequence of events leading directly to death, or the circumstances of the accident or violence that produced the fatal injury. Rules issued by the National Center for Health Statistics and World Health Organization’s code of International Classification of Diseases (ICD) define underlying cause of death. ICD-10 rules have been in effect since January 1999; ICD-9 rules were used from 1979 through 1998.

Last updated: October, 2012