[Federal Register Volume 60, Number 241 (Friday, December 15, 1995)]
[Pages 64437-64438]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 95-30566]



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Change in Marriage and Divorce Data Available From the National 
Center for Health Statistics

AGENCY: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of 
Health and Human Services (DHHS).

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: Beginning January 1, 1996, the availability of marriage and 
divorce data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics 
(NCHS), CDC, will change. NCHS will continue to collect marital status 
in all of its population surveys, will continue to obtain detailed 
information on out-of-wedlock births, and will work with States to 
obtain summary counts of marriages and divorces. However, detailed data 

[[Page 64438]]
States participating in the marriage and divorce components of the 
Vital Statistics Cooperative Program (VSCP) will no longer be obtained. 
This change is being made to prioritize programs in a period of 
tightened resource constraints.

DATES: Written comments regarding these changes in the collection of 
marriage and divorce data must be received on or before January 15, 

ADDRESSES: Written comments can be sent to the Centers for Disease 
Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics, 
Attention: FR Response, Division of Vital Statistics, Room 840, 6525 
Belcrest Road, Hyattsville, MD 20782.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mary Anne Freedman, Director, Division 
of Vital Statistics, NCHS, CDC, telephone (301) 436-8951, ext. 112.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Viewed at either the individual level or the 
population level, marital status is a key variable in health, 
demographic, and policy research. As a result, data on current marital 
status and on change in marital status have been collected through a 
variety of Federal surveys and data systems. Among these systems are 
health surveys conducted by NCHS, the Current Population Survey 
conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, and the records-based vital 
registration system conducted as a cooperative venture (the VSCP) 
between NCHS and the States. Within the VSCP, current marital status 
data are collected from birth certificates in the birth registration 
system, resulting, for example, in data on out-of-wedlock births. 
Marital status is also collected from death certificates in the death 
registration system. Data on change in marital status are obtained from 
marriage and divorce certificates.
    NCHS plans to discontinue payments to the States and other vital 
registration areas for the collection of detailed data from marriage 
and divorce certificates, but will continue to request counts of 
marriages performed and divorces granted from all vital registration 
areas of the U.S. All other NCHS efforts to collect marital status 
information, including marital status for mothers on birth 
certificates, will continue.
    NCHS data systems are continually being reviewed in light of 
resource constraints to assure that efforts are focused on the highest 
priority data needs. At a time when policy issues related to families 
are of great interest, NCHS has exercised caution to assure that data 
systems will be available to support monitoring and research interests 
in key priority areas. Over the last year, NCHS has systematically 
reviewed the availability and uses of detailed data on marriages and 
divorces. This review has led to the conclusion that the data most 
needed for setting policy (e.g., information on family formation, out-
of-wedlock births, children living in single parent families) can be 
obtained through other sources, such as the birth registration system, 
other NCHS surveys, and the Current Population Survey.
    The discontinuation of collection of detailed data from marriage 
and divorce certificates will result in a loss of data to researchers 
who currently rely on this data source for information on annual 
changes in the collective marriage and divorce behavior of the 
population, including trends and differentials in the propensity to 
marry, to divorce, and to remarry after divorce or widowhood. However, 
much of this information is available on a five year cycle from the 
June Marital History Supplement of the Current Population Survey.
    Long-standing concerns about the completeness and quality of 
detailed marriage and divorce data from the VSCP were an important 
consideration in reaching the conclusion to discontinue payments to the 
States. Although the United States Government has collected marriage 
and divorce data through various methods since 1867, it was not until 
1957 that a formal Registration Area was created for reporting detailed 
marriage data to NCHS; a similar Registration Area was created for 
divorces in 1958. These Registration Areas include States with adequate 
programs for collecting marriage and divorce statistics and which meet 
specific registration and reporting criteria for participation. More 
recently, NCHS has included marriage and divorce statistics in the 
VSCP, a contractual arrangement by which NCHS provides support to the 
State vital statistics programs and through which NCHS receives vital 
statistics data for analysis and dissemination at the national level.
    Working with State vital registration offices and with various 
users of marriage and divorce data, NCHS has established standard 
certificates of marriage and divorce. These certificates contain 
selected data items about marriages and divorces, and certain of these 
items are required for admission to the registration areas. Due to 
variation in State laws on registration of marriage and divorce, not 
all States obtain these basic required items, and not all States have 
central registration facilities for marriages or divorces or both. At 
present, 41 States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the 
Virgin Islands participate in the Marriage Registration Area and 31 
States, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands participate in 
the Divorce Registration Area. Detailed data are currently obtained 
from relatively small systematic samples of marriage and divorce 
records for these Areas. Although this system has been in place for 
many years, it has never been completed. Detailed data represent 
approximately 77 percent of marriages in the nation and 49 percent of 
divorces. For this reason, in addition to the detailed data, NCHS 
obtains counts of the number of marriages performed and the number of 
divorces granted from all States, the District of Columbia, Puerto 
Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
    Fiscal constraints on State vital statistics programs have put 
stress on state-level quality assurance programs. As a result, in 
addition to the problem of coverage completeness, the quality of 
detailed marriage and divorce data has deteriorated. This deterioration 
is reflected mostly by the fact that, in some States, the response 
rates for certain key variables have fallen well below the minimum 
level acceptable to NCHS.
    These coverage and quality concerns, the lack of identified 
resources to upgrade the system, and the availability of marital status 
data for high-priority needs from other sources have led NCHS, in 
consultation with data users, to conclude that resources currently 
devoted to the marriage and divorce component of the VSCP should be 
redirected to other priority uses.

    Dated: December 8, 1995.
 Claire V. Broome,
 Deputy Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
[FR Doc. 95-30566 Filed 12-14-95; 8:45 am]