Thursday, June 15, 2006

Statistics: Vital Records by State

If you are looking for birth, death, marriage, or divorce statistics by state, you can find them at the CDC National Center for Health Statistics website. You have to click through a couple of times until you navigate to each state's page (ignore the part about "if you want to buy this record, send $ to here,") and then you sometimes have to do a search on that webpage for the specific number you're looking for. The federal government does a really lousy job of compiling these, so if you're looking for a comparative chart of any vital statistics, you usually have to do a lot of digging on their main site here, or just make the chart yourself.

Since most vital records are recorded on the county level, doing cross-tabulations of this data (for instance, if you wanted to know how many white women over the age of 40 get divorced, or any other variable cross-tabbed with some other variable) is often difficult or impossible. Since reliable macro level data isn't fungible, social research into marriage and divorce is often very unreliable.

As an aside, when you do a Google search for any statistic, its usually more efficient to search by typology instead of the name of what you're looking for. So instead of searching for "divorce statistics" or "black test scores" (which usually leads you to 1,000 different articles about those subjects) you should search for "vital statistics" or "standardized test scores by race." If that doesn't work, use an advanced search to limit your searches to web pages that include ".gov" in them. There is usually a federal agency that specifically collects what you're looking for. If that doesn't work, read any recent article on what you're studying. Look for the name of an academic who studies what you care about. Then Google their name on the webpage of wherever they teach, and send them an email asking for help looking for your numbers. They probably have them handy, and 90% of the time they are more then willing to help.
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