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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2017

Infant Mortality

Infant mortality is defined as the death of an infant before his or her first birthday. Infant mortality is related to the underlying health of the mother, public health practices, socioeconomic conditions, and availability and use of appropriate health care for infants and pregnant women.128 Despite medical advances and public health efforts, the mortality rates of Black, non-Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic infants have been consistently higher than the rates of other racial and ethnic groups.129, 130 A higher percentage of preterm births accounts for most of the infant mortality for Black, non-Hispanic infants. Higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), birth defects, preterm births, and injuries account for much of the higher infant mortality among American Indian or Alaska Native infants.131

Indicator HEALTH2: Death rates among infants by race and Hispanic origin of mother, 1999–2014
Indicator HEALTH2: Death rates among infants by race and Hispanic origin of mother, 1999–2014

NOTE: The abbreviation NH refers to non-Hispanic origin. The abbreviation AIAN refers to the American Indian or Alaska Native population. The abbreviation API refers to the Asian or Pacific Islander population. Infant deaths are deaths before an infant's first birthday. Race refers to mother's race. The 1977 U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Standards for Data on Race and Ethnicity were used to classify persons into one of the following four racial groups: White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, or Asian or Pacific Islander. Although state reporting of birth certificate data is transitioning to comply with the 1997 OMB standard for race and ethnicity statistics, data from states reporting multiple races were bridged to the single-race categories of the 1977 OMB standards for comparability with other states. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected and reported separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Trends for the Hispanic population are affected by an expansion in the number of registration areas that included an item on Hispanic origin on the birth certificate.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System.

  • From 1999 to 2014, the infant mortality rate declined from 7.0 infant deaths to 5.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
  • During the same time period, the infant mortality rate declined for White, non-Hispanic; Black, non-Hispanic; Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic; and Hispanic infants. Infant mortality for American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic infants was stable from 1999 to 2014.
  • Despite the declines in infant mortality between 1999 and 2014, rates for Black, non-Hispanic and American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic infants remained higher than the rates for White, non-Hispanic; Hispanic; and Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic infants throughout the entire period.
  • In 2014, the infant mortality rates were 10.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for Black, non-Hispanic; 7.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic; 5.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for Hispanic; 4.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for White, non-Hispanic; and 3.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic infants.
  • Infant mortality rates also varied within racial and ethnic populations. For example, among Hispanics in the United States, the infant mortality rate for 2014 ranged from a low of 3.9 deaths per 1,000 live births for infants of Cuban origin and 4.3 for infants of Central and South American origin to a high of 7.2 per 1,000 live births for infants of Puerto Rican origin.

table icon HEALTH2 HTML Table

128 Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., Curtin, S. C., & Matthews, T. J. (2015). Births: final data for 2013. National Vital Statistics Reports, 64(1). Hyattsville. MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

129 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). CDC health disparities and inequalities report—United States, 2013. MMWR 62(Suppl): 1–186.

130 Krieger, N., Rehkopf, D. H., Chen, J. T., Waterman, P. D., Marcelli, E., & Kennedy, M. (2008). The fall and rise of U.S. inequalities in premature mortality: 1960–2002. PLoS Med 5 (2): e46.

131 MacDorman, M. F., & Mathews, T. J. (2011). Understanding racial and ethnic disparities in U.S. infant mortality rates (NCHS Data Brief, No. 74). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.