The validity of information on "race" and "Hispanic ethnicity" in California birth certificate data

Health Serv Res. 2000 Oct;35(4):869-83.


Objective: To evaluate the validity of racial/ethnic information in California birth certificate data.

Data sources: Computerized birth certificate data and postpartum interviews with California mothers.

Study design and data collection: Birth certificates were matched with face-to-face structured postpartum interviews with 7,428 mothers to compare racial/ethnic information between the two data sources. Interviews were conducted in Spanish or English during delivery stays at 16 California hospitals, 1994-1995.

Principal findings: The sensitivity of racial/ethnic classification in birth certificate data was very high (94 percent to 99 percent) for African Americans, Asians/Pacific Islanders, Europeans/Middle Easterners, and Latinas (Hispanics). For Native Americans, however, the sensitivity was only 54 percent. The positive predictive value of birth certificate classification of race/ethnicity was high for all racial/ethnic groups (96 percent to 97 percent).

Conclusions: Despite limited training of birth clerks, the maternal racial/ethnic information in California birth certificate data appears to be a valid measure of self-identified race and Hispanic ethnicity for groups other than Native Americans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Certificates*
  • California
  • Data Collection / standards
  • Ethnicity / classification
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / classification*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Racial Groups / classification*
  • Vital Statistics*