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What is civil registration?

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Quick Answer

Civil registration is the process of documenting the notable events in the lives of a society?s citizens, including deaths, births and marriages. Known as vital statistics, these records help governments regulate critical public policies, such as legal citizenship, probate and passport validation.

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Other common vital statistics are fetal deaths, adoptions, divorces and causes of fatalities. Civil registration enables governments to verify identification and keep track of deaths to prevent individuals from exploiting important procedures, such as obtaining passports, transferring property ownership, opening bank accounts, proving citizenship and applying for credit. Periodic record-keeping also establishes a timeline of civic activity, making it easier to confirm the ages of individual citizens and protect the public from fraud. For example, keeping records of deaths helps governments prevent criminals or undocumented individuals from using the identities, insurance coverage or credit of deceased citizens.

From a health perspective, civil registration helps research organizations evaluate statistical data to identify trends, such as infertility and premature death, and determine their causes. Governments use the data to develop public health systems and distribute resources more effectively to aid at-risk populations. However, census data collection is limited by participation. Areas suffering from severe economic or political instability often have inadequate civil registration systems in place, leading to unreliable data.

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