Share of deaths that are registered

Ariel Karlinsky (2024)
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What you should know about this indicator

  • The most common way of knowing how many deaths occur in a country is to rely on death certificates registered in national Vital Registry systems. In many countries, however, a large share of deaths are not registered. This is due to factors such as a lack of doctors and nurses to fill in death certificates, or a poorly functioning Vital Registry system.
  • This indicator estimates the extent of under-registering, given as the share of deaths that were registered, out of the total deaths expected for that year.
  • The number of expected deaths is estimated by taking the average number of deaths from three data sources: the UN's World Population Prospects, WHO's Global Health Estimates and IHME's Global Burden of Disease study. These three sources themselves estimate the number of deaths from models based on data from censuses and household surveys. For many countries, the estimates of the three sources are very similar. However, for others, where vital registration systems are lacking or not functional, they tend to differ.
Learn more in the FAQs

Death registration completeness, the share of deaths captured by countries’ vital registration systems, vary substantially across countries. Estimates of completeness, even recent ones, are outdated or contradictory for many countries. In this short paper, I utilize the annual amount of deaths registered in 139 vital registration systems around the world to provide the most up-to-date estimates of death-registration completeness from 2015 to 2019.

[Text from Karlinsky (2024)]

Share of deaths that are registered
Ariel Karlinsky (2024)
The number of deaths reported in a country's vital registration system as a share of total expected deaths. Expected deaths are taken as the average of estimates from three international sources: the UN, WHO, and IHME.
Ariel Karlinksy (2024) – processed by Our World in Data
Last updated
August 16, 2023
Next expected update
August 2024
Date range

Frequently Asked Questions

How are the expected deaths per year estimated?

The total number of deaths expected each year can be estimated using data from censuses, surveys and other data sources about the size of the population by age, sex and other demographics. For example, they can be estimated using historical trends and registered deaths. In addition, countries carry out censuses, usually around every ten years.

Researchers can compare people in one census and the next, and look at their year of birth, to estimate how many people in that birth cohort died in between censuses. This can help project the number of deaths each year by age and other demographics.

Different groups use slightly different methods to estimate the total number of expected deaths each year, but their estimates are mostly similar. Estimates vary more widely for countries with poorly functioning Vital Registries. This dataset by Ariel Karlinsky uses an average of estimates from three sources: the UN's World Population Prospects, WHO's Global Health Estimates and IHME's Global Burden of Disease study.

Sources and processing

This data is based on the following sources

The International Completeness of Death Registration 2015–2019 database (ICDR), produced by Ariel Karlinsky, represents the most comprehensive and up-to-date database on the completeness of death reporting globally.

The work and sources are documented in detail on GitHub:

Retrieved on
August 16, 2023
This is the citation of the original data obtained from the source, prior to any processing or adaptation by Our World in Data. To cite data downloaded from this page, please use the suggested citation given in Reuse This Work below.
Karlinsky, A. (2024). International completeness of death registration. Demographic Research, 50, 1151–1170.

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To cite this page overall, including any descriptions, FAQs or explanations of the data authored by Our World in Data, please use the following citation:

“Data Page: Share of deaths that are registered”, part of the following publication: Hannah Ritchie, Lucas Rodés-Guirao, Edouard Mathieu, Marcel Gerber, Esteban Ortiz-Ospina, Joe Hasell and Max Roser (2023) - “Population Growth”. Data adapted from Ariel Karlinksy. Retrieved from [online resource]
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In-line citationIf you have limited space (e.g. in data visualizations), you can use this abbreviated in-line citation:

Ariel Karlinksy (2024) – processed by Our World in Data

Full citation

Ariel Karlinksy (2024) – processed by Our World in Data. “Share of deaths that are registered – Ariel Karlinsky (2024)” [dataset]. Ariel Karlinksy, “International Completeness of Death Registration 2015-2019” [original data]. Retrieved July 25, 2024 from