The first agency to publish vital statistics was the Census Bureau. In 1945 the Federal Security Agency became responsible for the gathering and publishing of vital statistics and in 1970 these responsibilities were transferred to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

Mortality statistics were first reported in the 1850 decennial census, but the first birth statistics were not reported until 1870 and the first marriage and divorce statistics were published in 1908. Since 1945 the statistics of birth, mortality, and marriage and divorce have been reported together annually in the publication Vital Statistics of the United States.