Do inferences about mortality rates and disparities vary by source of mortality information?

John Robert Warren, Carolina Milesi, Karen Grigorian, Melissa Humphries, Chandra Muller, Eric Grodsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose Researchers who study mortality among survey participants have multiple options for obtaining information about which participants died (and when and how they died). Some use public record and commercial databases; others use the National Death Index; some use the Social Security Death Master File; and still others triangulate sources and use Internet searches and genealogic methods. We ask how inferences about mortality rates and disparities depend on the choice of source of mortality information. Methods Using data on a large, nationally representative cohort of people who were first interviewed as high school sophomores in 1980 and for whom we have extensive identifying information, we describe mortality rates and disparities through about age 50 using four separate sources of mortality data. We rely on cross-tabular and multivariate logistic regression models. Results These sources of mortality information often disagree about which of our panelists died by about age 50 and also about overall mortality rates. However, differences in mortality rates (i.e., by sex, race/ethnicity, education) are similar across of sources of mortality data. Conclusion Researchers' source of mortality information affects estimates of overall mortality rates but not estimates of differential mortality by sex, race and/or ethnicity, or education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-127
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of epidemiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The 2014 High School & Beyond project was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (grant 2012-10-27), the Institute for Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education (grant R305U140001), and the National Science Foundation (grants HRD1348527 and HRD1348557). This project also benefited from support provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to the University of Texas at Austin (R24-HD042849), the University of Wisconsin-Madison (P2C-HD047873), and the University of Minnesota (P2C-HH041023), as well as direct funding from NORC at the University of Chicago. The authors are also very grateful for constructive suggestions by Jack DeWaard, Robert Hummer, and John Stevenson. However, errors or omissions are entirely the responsibility of the authors. Note that this article has been subject to disclosure review and has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education's Institute for Education Sciences in line with the terms of the HS&B restricted use data agreement.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.


  • Death records
  • Differential mortality
  • Mortality rate
  • Survey methods

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