Project Whitewash

Mortality Data Project

In 1994, the Centers for Disease Control shocked some observers by suspending publication of its useful annual publication Vital Statistics of the United States after more than 50 years of continuous publication. The CDC instead made vital statistics data available on magnetic tapes, and later on compact disks.

Although this change has made mortality data (and other demographic data), more difficult for most people to access, it has also made more data available to those with the time, patience and computer power to decipher the files that CDC distributes. The public-use data files contain a list of causes of death for every single death in the United States, together with geographic, age and other demographic information. Month of death is available, but actual dates are censored to protect medical privacy.

Project Whitewash has obtained and begun to decode the mortality data files for 1979-1998, and we are currently investigating whether earlier data files (which do exist) can be obtained and made publicly available.

We will be publishing reports with summaries of mortality trends in the United States. We also welcome inquiries from people who would like information extracted from these files, as well as people who might want to work with us to make such information available.

Please email Project Whitewash if you would like to talk about using or disseminating U.S. mortality data.

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