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What it is and why to use it?

One of the mainstays of our reference collection is Vital Statistics of the United States: Births, Life Expectancy, Deaths, and Selected Health Data. A vital statistic is a record of birth, death, or marriage. Although in the genealogy world it is often used to reference information on a particular person, this source congregates and analyzes mass data for the entire country.

Want to know the rate of marriage in Iowa? The total number of divorces across the country in 2012? The current life expectancy in the US? (78.8 years FYI) The percent of babies born to non-married women? All of that and more is available for use in both informational and persuasive papers and speeches.

Where to find it

The last time we were going to re-order our paper version for reference we discovered that the Center for Disease Control had this information online for free. So if you are looking for charts of data of vital statistics (birth, death, and marriage, etc.) check out this link instead.



There is sometimes an expectation that the numbers will be up to the minute when they will often be two or three years behind. That is because the data the numbers are extracted from needs to be collected at the end of the year from state governments and other sources and then analyzed and imputed to the CDC’s various reports. This causes the delay, so don’t look for results from this year yourself or expect your students to find them.

Sarah Uthoff is a reference library at Kirkwood Community College. LIKE the Kirkwood Community College Library on Facebook and find links to Sarah all over the web at her About Me Profile.