health statistics. For example, in 1991 the three Baltic states shifted from the Soviet definitions of live birth and infant death to a standard that is close to the one recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). This shift increases the reported infant mortality rates for the Baltic states by about 23 percent over what they would have been using the Soviet definitions.5 Russia began to shift to the WHO definitions in 19936 (see Kingkade and Arriaga in this volume).
A second potential problem is that one role of the State Committee on Statistics (Goskomstat) of the Soviet Union was to audit and attempt to improve the quality and consistency of procedures for vital registration and population enumeration throughout the country. Now that the Soviet Union is gone, the quality of population and health data in many of the successor states could deteriorate unless these states are able to develop a strong program of internal auditing and management of the collection of data, or perhaps obtain advice and expertise from abroad.
A third problem is that as the successor states undergo multiple crises, including civil violence and economic hardship, they are not likely to give high priority to the collection and evaluation of population statistics. In general, the most common kinds of error in mortality data tend to lead to underregistration of deaths, to exaggeration of age at death, or to exaggeration of the ages of the enumerated population—errors that in turn are likely to lead to apparent reductions in mortality. Although the rising mortality in the successor states might suggest that underreporting and underregistration are not very important, in fact there is evidence of substantial error in the Central Asian states, Kazakstan, and Azerbaijan. This means that infant mortality in the past was far higher than was implied by the reported data, in some cases by a factor of three or four. 7 Hence, it is difficult to know what baseline to use for interpreting trends in infant mortality in these regions. Use of the reported infant mortality rate would be very misleading; adjusted or corrected infant mortality rates cannot yet be applied consistently for all the countries because of a lack of detailed data.
As the new states have to deal with the collection, reworking, and analysis of population data, not only are there problems related to maintaining and improving the data collection system, but there are also questions about the consistency over time of the methods used to create summary statistics, including life tables.
The accuracy of life tables depends on the accuracy and completeness of two kinds of information: the enumeration of the population by age and sex, and the number of deaths by age and sex. It also depends on how some technical issues in life-table construction are handled. There have been only a few publications concerning the accuracy of Soviet life tables. Information about the construction of the 1958-1959 life table was published in the 1959 Soviet census summary volume (USSR TsSU, 1962-1963:254-279). Andreev et al. (1975) describe the