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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

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 the availability and use of appropriate health care for infants and pregnant women.10, 118 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.20, 119 Higher rates of infants born preterm or at low birthweight account for most of the deaths among Black, non-Hispanic infants.20 Higher rates of birth defects, preterm births, and injuries account for much of the deaths among American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic infants.20

Indicator HEALTH2: Death rates among infants by race and Hispanic origin of mother, 2008–2018
Indicator HEALTH2: Death rates among infants by race and Hispanic origin of mother, 2008–2018

NOTE: NH = non-Hispanic origin; AIAN = American Indian or Alaska Native; API = Asian or Pacific Islander; NHOPI = Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. Infant deaths are deaths before an infant's first birthday. Race refers to the mother's race. For data through 2016, 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. Data from states reporting multiple races were bridged to the single-race categories of the 1977 OMB standards for comparability with other states and for trend analysis. Beginning with 2017 data, the 1997 U.S. OMB standards on race and ethnicity were used to classify persons into one of the following five racial groups: White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian or Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander. All categories are now single race. As a result, data for 2017 and subsequent years are not strictly comparable with earlier data. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected and reported separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

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

  • The infant mortality rate declined from 7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018.
  • During 2008–2018, the infant mortality rate declined for White, non-Hispanic; Black, non-Hispanic; Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic (2008–2016); and Hispanic infants. The infant mortality rate for American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic infants was stable throughout the time period.
  • Despite the declines in infant mortality between 2008 and 2018, 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 (2008–2016) infants throughout the entire period.
  • In 2018, the infant mortality rates were 11 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for Black, non-Hispanic; 9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic; 8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic; 5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for Hispanic; 5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for White, non-Hispanic; and 4 infant deaths per 1,000 live births for Asian, non-Hispanic infants.

table icon HEALTH2 HTML Table

10 Martin, J. A., Hamilton, B. E., Osterman, M. J. K., & Driscoll, A. K. (2019). Births: Final data for 2018. National Vital Statistics Reports, 68(13). National Center for Health Statistics.

20 Ely, D. M., & Driscoll, A. K. (2020). Infant mortality in the United States, 2018: Data from the period linked birth/ infant death file. National Vital Statistics Reports, 69(7), 1–18. National Center for Health Statistics.

118 Ely, D. M., Driscoll, A. K., & Mathews, T. J. (2018). Infant mortality by age at death in the United States, 2016 (NCHS Data Brief No. 326). National Center for Health Statistics.

119 Mathews, T. J., & Driscoll, A. K. (2017). Trends in infant mortality in the United States, 2005–2014 (NCHS Data Brief No. 279). National Center for Health Statistics.