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CenSoc: Publicly Accessible Administrative Mortality Records for Individual-level Research

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Constructing the CenSoc Datasets: Linking the 1940 Census to Mortality Data

Are you interested in exploring the intersection of historical census data and mortality records? If so, you’re in for a treat! In this blog post, we delve into the fascinating world of constructing the CenSoc datasets by linking the 1940 Census to mortality data from the Social Security Numident File and the Social Security Death Master File.

The process of linking these datasets is no easy feat, especially when there is no shared unique identifier between the 1940 Census and mortality records. To overcome this challenge, nominal record linkage algorithms are employed to link individual-level data from the census to mortality records.

The 1940 Census, conducted on April 1st, 1940, provides a wealth of information on over 132 million Americans living in 44 million households. This census was groundbreaking in its inclusion of questions on wage and salary income, educational attainment, and detailed employment status. With the digitization of the 1940 Census records, researchers now have access to a treasure trove of historical data.

On the mortality side, the Social Security Death Master File and the Social Security Numident File offer valuable insights into death records, with details such as full names, dates of birth and death, and other background information. By harmonizing these datasets, researchers can gain a comprehensive understanding of mortality patterns over time.

The record linkage process involves using a deterministic algorithm to establish matches between the census and mortality records. This conservative approach prioritizes minimizing false matches to ensure the accuracy of the linked datasets.

Matching methods for women present a unique challenge due to changes in last names after marriage. However, by leveraging information on father’s last names from the Numident records, researchers can successfully link women between the 1940 Census and the Numident.

To account for differences in inclusion probabilities, statistical weights are generated using population totals from the National Vital Statistics System. These weights help adjust for variations in age, period, and demographic characteristics, ensuring the representativeness of the linked datasets.

In cases where direct weighting is not feasible, adjustments are made to address problematic records, such as deaths in specific years or for individuals born abroad. By employing raking ratio estimation and trimming extreme weights, researchers can calibrate the weighted data to population totals and ensure the reliability of their analyses.

In conclusion, the construction of the CenSoc datasets represents a remarkable feat of data linkage and harmonization. By combining historical census data with mortality records, researchers can uncover valuable insights into population dynamics and mortality trends, shedding light on the past and informing future research endeavors.

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