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Death Data Files

Unless there is a specific need for personal identifiers, non-confidential data files should be used.  Some fields on the death files are only available for specific uses as prescribed by law.  Confidential Death Files include personal identifiers such as Mother’s Maiden Name (MMN) and/or Social Security Number (SSN).  Users may need to obtain approvals from the California Department of Public Health Vital Statistics Advisory Committee (VSAC) and the California Health and Human Services Agency's Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) in order to use confidential data files for research purposes.  Once the files are obtained, users must follow strict guidelines to protect the confidentiality of the data.   

Description of Files

Death Data files are compiled from the information reported on the death certificates, including detailed demographic information related to the decedent.  Below are brief descriptions of available death data files. 

  • Death Statistical Master Files

  • The Death Statistical Master Files are the largest and most comprehensive of the death data files.  These files are available with or without the personal identifiers.  CPHS and the VSPAC approvals are required to obtain the Death Statistical Master Files with social security numbers or mother's maiden names. For a list of variables, please click here.
  • Death Public Use Files 

  • The Death Public Use Files are subsets of the Death Statistical Master Files.  The file structure and the variable coding methodology are designed to facilitate trend analysis and to simplify computer programming.  These files contain the most commonly used variables and do not contain any personal identifiers. For a list of variables, please click here.
  • Merged Death Files

  • The Merged Death Files are subsets of the Death Statistical Master Files and contain the most commonly used variables.  These files have a consistent record layout over all the years and are intended to facilitate long-term trend analysis and to simplify computer programming.  These files are available with or without the personal identifiers.  CPHS and VSAC approvals are required to obtain the Merged Death Files with social security numbers or mother's maiden names. For a list of variables, please click here.
  • Fetal Death Statistical Master Files

  • For information about this file, please click here
  • Death Address Files

  • These files contain geographic data such as street level address of decedent and other geocoding data.  Some years contain decedent’s name and certificate numbers; some years contain only certificate numbers for unique identifiers.  These files do not contain medical or demographic data.  However, these files can be linked to other death files using the certificate number.  NOTE:  These files are only available for the years 1989 to 1991 and 1999 to 2001.  These files were not intended for heavy use, have very little documentation and were geocoded only as a test project.  However, they are the best files containing addresses during those time periods.  Beginning with 2005, address is also included on the Death Statistical Master Files.  To learn more about or order the Death Address Files, please contact Health Information and Research  at OHIR@cdph.ca.gov
  • Multiple Cause of Death Files

  • These files were created by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and include underlying, immediate, intermediate, and contributing causes of death and demographic data. Each record may include up to 20 causes of death derived from California death certificates.  All causes of death are coded according to the International Classification of Diseases.  These files include certificate numbers, but do not include names or other personal identifiers.  These files can be linked to other death files using the certificate number. A list of variables for these files may be obtained at the NCHS or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Purchasing Files

Prices for these data may vary depending on the product and the years requested.  The cost of data files and available years are provided in the applications listed below. For applications please click here.

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Last modified on: 8/20/2012 3:59 PM