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Asian And Pacific Islander Mortality In New Jersey, 1989-1998

For more recent data, see the “Deaths” chapters of the annual New Jersey Health Statistics report series


Since 1989, Asians and Pacific Islanders have been identified on death certificates by the selection of "Other" as a race in combination with the specification of the country of origin or ancestry. Reported race categories are Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, Filipino, Asian Indian, Korean, Samoan, Vietnamese, Guamian, and other Asian or Pacific Islander. Due to concerns about the quality of these data, mortality statistics for Asians and Pacific Islanders in New Jersey have not been previously published.

Reported Asian and Pacific Islander Mortality Data

Asians and Pacific Islanders comprised 3.6 percent of New Jersey's population in 1990. By 2000, the percentage had risen to 5.7. As the Asian and Pacific Islander populations in New Jersey continue to grow, the need for data on the mortality experience of these segments of the population increases. Beginning with New Jersey Health Statistics, 1999, the Center for Health Statistics (CHS) will publish Asian and Pacific Islander mortality data with the understanding that it is incomplete. The following tables have been created to provide trend data for the years previously unpublished.

As the tables show, reported death rates for Asians and Pacific Islanders are unusually low. Throughout the 1990s, the Asian and Pacific Islander age-adjusted mortality rate was about one-third that of the total population and the crude death rate was about one-sixth that of the total population. Discrepancies of this size are clear indicators of undermeasurement of Asian and Pacific Islander race on death certificates. Therefore, while these figures provide some information about Asian and Pacific Islander mortality, they should be used with caution and almost certainly do not represent a complete measurement of deaths to Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Availability of Population Data

The 1990 Census was the first time that population data were reported separately for Asians and Pacific Islanders. Prior to 1990, population was only reported for white, black, and other. Therefore, mortality rates cannot be calculated for Asians and Pacific Islanders prior to 1990. Data from the 2000 Census reports Asians separately from Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

Analysis of Undermeasurement

Undermeasurement of Asians and Pacific Islanders on death certificates is a nationwide problem. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) estimates that the undercount is approximately 13 percent nationally1. While Asians and Pacific Islanders are thought to also be undermeasured in the Census, and thus in the denominator of mortality rates, this is believed to be more than offset by the undermeasurement on death certificates. It has not been determined if NCHS's undercount estimate is uniform across states, counties, time, age groups, sex, causes of deaths, and countries of origin. Therefore, it is most likely inaccurate to simply adjust all data upward by 13 percent.

An attempt by New Jersey's CHS in 2001 to estimate the undercount of Asians and Pacific Islanders using a surname list was unsuccessful. The only available list contained 7,883 names, many of which were not exclusively Asian (e.g., King, Young, Ward). Additionally, the list only included Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino surnames. According to the 2000 Census, 35 percent of New Jersey's Asians and Pacific Islanders were Asian Indian, 20 percent were Chinese, 18 percent were Filipino, and 14 percent were Korean. Only 3 percent were Japanese. Without a better surname list and more information from the death certificate in the electronic file (specifically, mother's surname and birthplace for those currently coded as "remainder of world"), CHS cannot use the existing list of Asian surnames to estimate the true mortality experience of Asians and Pacific Islanders in New Jersey. The complete implementation of the Electronic Death Registry System in 2005 should alleviate the undercount problem to some degree.

Asian and Pacific Islander Death Data Tables


1 Rosenberg HM, Maurer JD, Sorlie PD, Johnson NJ, et al. Quality of Death Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin: A Summary of Current Research, 1999. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital and Health Statistics 2(128). 1999.

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