Measuring maternal mortality through the census: Rapier or bludgeon?

Kenneth Hill, Cynthia Stanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


There is increased demand for maternal mortality estimates as a result of the choice of the Maternal Mortality Ratio as the key indicator for Millennium Development Goal 5. Given this strong demand, the United Nations Principles and Recommendations for Population Censuses suggest the inclusion of questions on recent household deaths, plus questions to identify pregnancy-related deaths in countries lacking empirical, national estimates. This paper evaluates the results of census-based measurement of pregnancy-related mortality using three different types of consistency checks applied in selected countries. Results from these evaluations are mixed. Overall, the census approach seems to produce robust estimates of the number of births. However, the consistency and plausibility of results relating to mortality vary substantially by country and by indicator. It is not clear whether the census-based methodology performs better or worse than the frequently used sibling histories. The results presented here clearly demonstrate the need for careful data evaluation and interpretation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-47
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Population Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Consistency
  • Data quality
  • Estimation
  • Evaluation
  • Maternal mortality
  • Population census
  • Pregnancy-related mortality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography


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