Monday, October 8, 2012

Measuring mortality and privacy

The Times reports on a year-old change in how the Social Security Administration publicly reports deaths. Studies without generous (often government) funding are now finding it difficult to cough up the cash for access to the CDC's National Death Index, the only alternative to the previously free SSA data that I gather is now much less complete. 

It's hard to know exactly what motivated SSA to change its protocol, but it sounds like part of it may have to do with popular attention to reports of identity theft focused on young decedents. I wonder if there might be room for a compromise that disclosed data based on advanced age at death; that wouldn't help all researchers, but those focused on aging would have an easier time of things.