Provisional life expectancy estimates for 2020
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    The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) collects and disseminates the nation’s official vital statistics through the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS). NCHS uses provisional vital statistics data for conducting public health surveillance and final data for producing annual national natality and mortality statistics. NCHS publishes annual and decennial national life tables based on final vital statistics. To assess the effects on life expectancy of excess mortality observed during 2020, NCHS published provisional life expectancy estimates for the months January through June, 2020 in February 2021 (1). This report presents updated estimates of life expectancy based on provisional mortality data for the full year, January through December, 2020. Provisional data are early estimates based on death certificates received, processed, and coded, but not finalized, by NCHS. These estimates are considered provisional because death certificate information may later be revised, and additional death certificates may be received until approximately 6 months after the end of the year.

    This report presents life expectancy estimates calculated using abridged period life tables based on provisional death counts for 2020, by sex, for the total, Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, and non-Hispanic black populations. Estimates for the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN), Asian, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (NHOPI) populations were not produced due to the impact of race and ethnicity misclassification on death certificates for these populations on the precision of life expectancy estimates (2). There are two types of life tables: the cohort (or generation) and the period (or current) life table. The cohort life table presents the mortality experience of a particular birth cohort from the moment of birth through consecutive ages in successive calendar years. The period life table does not represent the mortality experience of an actual birth cohort but rather presents what would happen to a hypothetical cohort if it experienced throughout its entire life the mortality conditions of a particular period. Period life expectancy estimates based on final data for 2019 by sex, Hispanic origin, and race are also provided in this report for purposes of comparison (see Technical Notes and reference 3 for description of methodology). Unlike the previous estimates based on 6 months of data, this full-year report presents contributions of causes of death to the changes in life expectancy using a life table partitioning technique (see Technical Notes).

    Suggested citation: Arias E, Tejada-Vera B, Ahmad F, Kochanek KD. Provisional life expectancy estimates for 2020. Vital Statistics Rapid Release; no 15. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. July 2021. DOI:


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