Volume 47 - Article 5 | Pages 111–142  

Berkeley Unified Numident Mortality Database: Public administrative records for individual-level mortality research

By Casey Breen, Joshua R. Goldstein


Background: While much progress has been made in understanding the demographic determinants of mortality in the United States using individual survey data and aggregate tabulations, the lack of population-level register data is a barrier to further advances in mortality research. With the release of Social Security application (SS-5), claim, and death records, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has created a new administrative data resource for researchers studying mortality. We introduce the Berkeley Unified Numident Mortality Database (BUNMD), a cleaned and harmonized version of these records. This publicly available dataset provides researchers access to over 49 million individual-level mortality records with demographic covariates and fine geographic detail, allowing for high-resolution mortality research.

Objective: The purpose of this paper is to describe the BUNMD, discuss statistical methods for estimating mortality differentials based on this deaths-only dataset, and provide case studies illustrating the high-resolution mortality research possible with the BUNMD.

Methods: We provide detailed information on our procedure for constructing the BUNMD dataset from the most informative parts of the publicly available Social Security Numident application, claim, and death records.

Contribution: The BUNMD is now publicly available, and we anticipate these data will facilitate new avenues of research into the determinants of mortality disparities in the United States.

Author's Affiliation

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