That Scary Infant Mortality Rate? Here's What You Need to Know

Posted August 28, 2018
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

infant mortality rates

News out­lets across the nation have report­ed on the alarm­ing­ly high infant mor­tal­i­ty rate among babies born to African-Amer­i­can mothers.

To recap: This sta­tis­tic tells us how many babies die in their first year of life, and any ref­er­ence to race refers to the mother’s race — not the child’s.

The most cur­rent infant mor­tal­i­ty rate on record, across the nation and all races, is 5.9 deaths for every 1,000 babies born alive. This annu­al rate trans­lates to near­ly 23,500 babies dying before their first birthday.

When this sta­tis­tic is sort­ed by a mother’s race, dis­qui­et­ing dis­par­i­ties appear. For instance:

Moth­ers who iden­ti­fy as Asian and Pacif­ic Islander expe­ri­ence 3.4 infant deaths for every 1,000 babies born alive. Among white moth­ers, this rate jumps slight­ly to 4.8 deaths for every 1,000 babies born alive. These two racial cat­e­gories rep­re­sent one end — the deci­sive­ly bet­ter end — of a sta­tis­ti­cal spectrum.

African-Amer­i­can moth­ers occu­py the oth­er extreme — expe­ri­enc­ing 11.4 infant deaths for every 1,000 babies born alive. This rate means that, com­pared to their Asian and Pacif­ic Islander coun­ter­parts, African-Amer­i­can moth­ers are three times more like­ly to lose a baby in their first year of life.

The details vary wide­ly for each child death includ­ed in this sta­tis­tic. But, gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, experts link infant mor­tal­i­ty to a num­ber of issues, includ­ing the mother’s well-being, socioe­co­nom­ic con­di­tions, pub­lic health prac­tices, and the avail­abil­i­ty and acces­si­bil­i­ty of health care for both infants and preg­nant women.

Go to the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter to see how infant mor­tal­i­ty by race has changed in the last decade.

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