National Records of Scotland

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Ethnicity of the deceased person: further background

Ethnicity of the deceased person: further background

The first assessment of the quality of the data that are collected

At an Ethnicity and Health Research conference in Edinburgh in November 2012, NRS’s Vital Events Statistician mentioned the possibility of matching census and ‘deaths’ records. The full presentation can be found on The statistics that have been published section of this website.

In April 2014, the Director of Public Health Science at NHS Health Scotland and two Professors of Public Health wrote to NRS, to ask it to match the ethnic information that was provided when deaths were registered in 2012 with what was recorded in the 2011 census for the same people, in order to assess the accuracy of the information that was recorded at death registration (and also to carry out similar work in respect of later years’ deaths, in order to obtain an ongoing measure of the quality of the data).

The data linkage part of this project was the first such piece of work done by the newly-established Data Sharing and Linkage Service, which is now part of the Scottish Informatics and Linkage Collaboration. As a ‘pilot’ project, it took much longer than would now be the case because of the need to establish various sets of rigorous governance, administrative arrangements and technical procedures. Not until May 2016 could NRS link together the ethnicity data from the death registration records for 2012 (and 2013 and 2014) and from the Census records (if any) for those people. A report on the results of the analysis was published on 14 March 2017.

The report concluded that the data on the ethnicity of the deceased person were not (at present) suitable for calculating reliable mortality rates for most ethnicities. It identified some ways that NRS could try to improve the quality of future data. The full report is available in The quality of the data for 2012 to 2014 section of this website.


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