Vital Statistics

I was explaining to Ms. Conspiracy about “African” on the President’s birth certificate, and thought a short article would be helpful for my readers.

In a birth registration, the record is in two parts: the legal portion and the statistical portion. They have different purposes and are treated differently.

The legal portion is governed by law. It contains the facts of birth for legal purposes. It is prima facie evidence of the facts it contains. There are strict laws and regulations about what can change and how it can change (legal name changes, adoptions, paternity, etc.)

The Statistical portion (which is rarely disclosed to the public) contains medical information about the birth: complications of pregnancy, method of delivery, risk factors, congenital abnormalities, etc. The statistical record does not have the same legal constraints on how it can be changed. It includes “coded” information. Coded information is information where text is quantified: an example is a “place code”. The legal record may say that the place of birth is Honolulu, Hawaii, but the place is coded according to a FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) system. FIPS codes are assigned and changed all the time, and a Vital Statistics agency may re-code a record after changes to the coding system, or they may fix wrong codes. So long as the text in the legal record doesn’t change, the vital statistics agency can tinker with the statistical information all they want (following internal policies).

When the Vital Statistics of the United States – 1961 talks about the classification of race “for vital statistics”, they mean exactly the process of coding the raw information received in to standard reporting categories.

This is why the self-reported value of African is on Barack Obama’s birth certificate as his father’s race from the legal record, but the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (the former agency in charge) does not include African among its statistical categories.

Births in the United States in 1961 are classified for vital statistics into white, Negro, American Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Aleut, Eskimo, Hawaiian and Part-Hawaiian (combined), and “other nonwhite.”

Vital Statistics of the United States – 1961 – Volume I — Natality page 5-7.

About Dr. Conspiracy

I'm not a real doctor, but I have a master's degree.
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31 Responses to Vital Statistics

  1. sam smeed says:

    You are ignorant of the definition between race and nationality.
    Barack Obama Sr was a negro per race, African as a Nationality. I guess like BO Sr you are just as confused. Now it makes sense why simple matters are totally over your head.

  2. richCares says:

    I attended Univisity of Hawaii in the 60’s and knew 7 African exchange students, none of then used American terms such as Negroe, Black, Nigga for their race, they all used and listed “African” as their race. You are locked into an unrealistic world dear Southern State Birther. Your definition is worthless, this point is mute.

  3. CalperniaUSA says:

    Race classification is a federal standard. Africa was never used. Barack Obama would have been classified by black or white (using the appropriate wording at that time).

    That black or white wouldn’t have been by skin color either. It was by origins. Arab used white. Native African used black. Obama’s Luo tribe were decendents of Omani Arabs. So he actually could have used white despite the pigment.

  4. richCares says:

    your link clearly states:
    Self-identification is the preferred means of obtaining information about an individual’s race and ethnicity, except in instances where observer identification is more practical (e .g., completing a death certificate).

    Please note that’s exactly what Obama Sr. did, the “African” refers to the self identified race of the Father not to Barrack Jr. Good try though!

    Obama Sr was African not African American, the race of the baby Obama is not listed, the foreign Father is not covered by the standards you claim.

    (My daughter’s Hawaiian BC has Mother’s race listed as “Japanese” and Father’s race as “Polish”, you probably don’t like that either)

  5. Expelliarmus says:

    Anyone following this issue has already seen multiple examples where nationality was indicated in lieu of “race” on other birth certificates that have been made public, such as “Hawaiian” or “Japanese” — I even saw one where the “race” of a parent was stated to be “American”.

    Given the history of Hawaii this is not at all surprising. The significant distinction on the islands that would color a person’s life would be that between native Hawaiian and “other” — in a sense the laws and culture create a clear divide. Given various laws practices intended to preserve certain benefits to the native Hawaiians, whether it is the land program or ability to attend certain schools, it would be very important for them to note their nationality on the form, and the “race” block is the only place to do so.

    “Race” is a social construct in any case, with no scientific underpinning. In Hawaii, especially in the 60’s, “race” was probably generally equated with ethnicity and geographic roots — either a person was “Hawaiian” ort=they were something else, with that something else expected to reflect where they were from, not where they might fit in the Jim Crow south.

  6. CalperniaUSA says:

    Self identification, yes. But the categories were provided for. The categories are provided by federal standards. African American is not a category yet. It is only now being discussed as possibly becoming one.

    I don’t believe any of the posts here were about Obama the baby. The posts here were discussing Obama Senior.

  7. CalperniaUSA says:

    I’ve been following this and I’ve not seen the examples you have cited. If Hawaii didn’t follow federal standards as outlined at the link I provided, I was not aware of it. I’m only going by the information from the link.

  8. Bob says:

    It isn’t that Hawaii “didn’t follow federal standards”; rather, people were self-identifying in a nonstandard manner. When the vital statistics are collected and someone has reported in a nonstandard manner, they are classified into a standardized category. That doesn’t change what’s on the birth certificate.

  9. Calpernia, you really shouldn’t say things about which you are uninformed. You say “African American is not a category yet. It is only now being discussed as possibly becoming one.” The fact of the matter is that the 2003 revision to the NCHS US Standard Certificate of Live Birth says “Black or African American“. Another of the categories is “OTHER (specify) _________”. The fact is, as evidenced by the appearance of “AFRICAN” on Obama’s birth certificate as father race, that even in 1961, that “OTHER” category was already there.

    You also missed the point of my article. Race for legal purposes is what the parent says they are. For statistical purposes it may be categorized. They are separate things, and do not interact once the statistical category is derived from the legal value.

  10. You are confusing the legal definition of race with the statistical definition. They are two separate items.

  11. CalperniaUSA says:

    Do we know if the self identifying had check boxes or were they allowed to write in?

  12. CalperniaUSA says:

    I did cite my source:

    The term African American was only just introduced in 1996 at the Workshop on the Federal Standards for Racial and Ethnic Classification. It is still considered a new category issue.

  13. CalperniaUSA says:

    Racial and Ethnic Standards are the same for the Census and the Federal Registrar.

  14. Calpernia, the point is that when you said “not a category yet”, you were wrong, since it was already on the form for 2003. Of course the answer is irrelevant, since what prints on a birth certificate is unrelated to federal statistical classifications.

  15. CalperniaUSA says:

    I said it was introduced. The panels discuss it and it is still being discussed. You are welcomed to read the link. The information is there.

  16. Bob says:

    All indications is that is in write in.

    But let’s cut to brass tacks: Is Fukino a liar or a rube?

  17. CalperniaUSA says:

    I guess ‘Bob’ has admin rights here since you posted a race bait question and then cut off the ability to reply to comments.

  18. Bob says:

    Yes; my powers are vast and omnipotent; I am presently on Taitz’s site, installing malware.

    (IOW: Huh?)

  19. Greg says:

    Do you have any evidence that the self-reported race is changed into the statistical race when it is provided to the person requesting the birth certificate?

    If the “long form” said African under the self-report, and “black” under the vital statistics, isn’t it possible that the COLB simply takes from the self-report box?

    Do we need to explain Occam’s razor? Isn’t my explanation much simpler than presuming a conspiracy to fabricate a birth certificate – a conspiracy which is either too dumb to realize that African isn’t a race or picked from the wrong box?

  20. Sarina says:

    Yes, you are right richCares.
    I emailed the Department of Health and I asked them about the African race. They told me “African” was accepted as a race then.

  21. Expelliarmus says:

    They would have written it in on the mother’s birth certificate workheet. Here’s what a current form might look like:

    You’ll notice that this form has a list of checkboxes but also has a line for “other” where anything can be written in.

    It appears to be quite common in Hawaii for individuals to indicate ethnicity rather than race on that line. I’ve seen copies of birth certificates from Hawaii with “Japanese”, “Hawaiian”, and “American” written in.

  22. misha says:

    “Occam’s razor”

    Careful, don’t get cut. (bada-bing)

  23. CalperniaUSA says:

    The ‘report to this comment’ was gone last night to respond to your post.

    Did you want me to reply? Or was your statement rhetorical?

  24. CalperniaUSA says:

    That is what doesn’t make sense to me. How would it be changed accurately if it is provided into the statistical race? No one would know the person’s race if it just says African.

  25. Expelliarmus says:

    The “reply to this comment” link is not available for posts that are nested more than 3 levels. (otherwise it messes up layout, resulting in very skinny replies.)

  26. The parent fills out Race on the form, and that gets typed onto the top part of the long form birth certificate. Then a trained hospital worker transcribes additional information from the medical chart into the bottom statistical/medical section. Then when the record goes to the health department, a coder enters the classified race into the bottom part of the form. In 1961, they would have looked at “African” in the top part and typed in “Negro” in the bottom part. The bottom part (today) goes (electronically) to the National Center for Health Statistics. If the top said “American” the bottom would probably have been set to White.

    I don’t know whether in 1961 they even bothered to classify race of the father, but I know that mothers were at least classified into white and non-white for statistical reporting purposes.

  27. None of the commenters on this blog have any administrative rights. Comments are either turned off for the entire article (and this is very rare) or they are limited in how deeply nested they can be. The blog software doesn’t have the capability to limit comments on a particular comment.

  28. Today, they have check boxes plus Other (specify). In 1961 I don’t know. Good practice would be to provide check boxes for the standard statistical classifications since this leads the self-identification into the desired statistical categories.

    When I wrote the functional specifications for an electronic system back in 1997, I included a software feature to manage coding where an operator could change all coding globally. They could view a list of all the values in the database and then pick them and say what they were statistically coded as.

  29. richCares says:

    hey CalperniaUSA, Obama Sr. listed his race as “African”, you appear not to like that, what will you do about it, you can’t punish him, he’s dead. So what is your point?

  30. JD says:

    I’m going to prove you can put anything you want in the race section. This comes from when the birthers were trying to debunk the COLB posted online as a forgery by comparing it to a “real” Hawaiian COLB. The race of the father is listed as “White”, but the race of the mother is “Caucasian Hawaiian”. You would think either the father’s race would be “Caucasian” or the mother’s would be “White Hawaiian” just for consistency.

    Anyway the link to the jpeg is

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