Trends in Infant Mortality in the United States, 2005-2014

March 21, 2017

T.J. Mathews, M.S., Demographer, Statistician

Questions for T.J. Mathews, M.S., Demographer, Statistician, and Lead Author of “Trends in Infant Mortality in the United States, 2005-2014

Q:  Was there a result in your study’s analysis of infant mortality that you hadn’t expected and that really surprised you?

TM:  Though not unexpected, the pervasive and large decrease in infant mortality that is documented in the report is quite striking. While we had been observing slight declines in the infant mortality rate, it’s very good news to see significant declines over the past decade.

Q:  Why did you conduct this study on a decade of infant mortality in the United States?

TM:  We produced this report because infant mortality is an important public health measure. The United States does not compare well with other developed countries. Measuring and understanding the changes in infant mortality rates over time — and identifying who has been impacted by those changes — is critical.

Q:  What differences, if any, did you see in infant mortality among race and ethnic groups?

TM:  We did see a number of significant differences in infant mortality among race and Hispanic origin groups. Rates reached new lows for infants of Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Asian or Pacific Islander women, though there was no decline among infants of American Indian or Alaska Native women. The largest decreases we saw were among infants of Asian or Pacific Islander women with a 21% drop over the decade, and among infants of non-Hispanic black women, with a 20% decrease.

Q:  What is the “period linked birth/infant death data set” that you reference as a source for the statistics in your report?

TM: The “period linked birth and infant death data set” is a very valuable tool for monitoring and exploring the complex inter-relationships between infant death and any risk factors present at birth. In the linked birth and infant death data set, the information from the death certificate is linked to the information from the birth certificate for each infant under 1 year of age who dies in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. The purpose of the linkage is to use the many additional variables available from the birth certificate to conduct more detailed analyses of infant mortality patterns. The linked files include information from the birth certificate such as: age, race, and Hispanic origin of the parents, birth weight, period of gestation, plurality, prenatal care, maternal education, live birth order, marital status, and maternal smoking – which is then linked to information from the death certificate such as age at death, and underlying and multiple cause of death.

Q: What is the take-home message of this report?

TM: I think the take-home message of this report is that the U.S. infant mortality rate declined significantly for the years 2005 to 2014, however, there is still much work to do. While the majority of race and ethnic groups experienced declines in infant mortality rates–and two-thirds of states showed declines as well–the U.S. infant mortality rate is still higher than many other developed countries. Our statistics show we can do better.

QuickStats: Average Infant Mortality Rate by Month — National Vital Statistics System, United States, 2010–2014

November 21, 2016

During 2010–2014, the infant mortality rate averaged approximately 6.00 infant deaths per 1,000 live births each month.

The infant mortality rate peaked in February and April at approximately 6.30 and was lowest from July to September with approximately 5.71 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.


Mortality in the United States, 2012

October 8, 2014

A new NCHS report presents 2012 U.S. final mortality data on deaths and death rates by demographic and medical characteristics. These data provide information on mortality patterns among residents of the United States by such variables as sex, race and ethnicity, and cause of death. Information on mortality patterns is key to understanding changes in the health and well-being of the U.S. population. Life expectancy estimates, age-adjusted death rates by race and ethnicity and sex, 10 leading causes of death, and 10 leading causes of infant death were analyzed by comparing 2012 final data with 2011 final data.

Key Findings from the Report:

  • Life expectancy at birth for the U.S. population reached a record high of 78.8 years in 2012.
  • The age-adjusted death rate for the United States decreased 1.1% from 2011 to 2012 to a record low of 732.8 per 100,000 standard population.
  • The 10 leading causes of death in 2012 remained the same as in 2011. Age-adjusted death rates decreased significantly from 2011 to 2012 for 8 of the 10 leading causes and increased significantly for one leading cause (suicide).
  • The infant mortality rate decreased 1.5% from 2011 to 2012 to a historic low of 597.8 infant deaths per 100,000 live births. The 10 leading causes of infant death in 2012 remained the same as in 2011.

International Comparisons of Infant Mortality and Related Factors: United States and Europe, 2010

September 24, 2014

A new NCHS report investigates the reasons for the United States’ high infant mortality rate when compared with European countries. Specifically, the report measures the impact on infant mortality differences of two major factors: the percentage of preterm births and gestational age-specific infant mortality rates.

In 2010, the U.S. infant mortality rate was 6.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, and the United States ranked 26th in infant mortality among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. After excluding births at less than 24 weeks of gestation to ensure international comparability, the U.S. infant mortality rate was 4.2, still higher than for most European countries and about twice the rates for Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. U.S. infant mortality rates for very preterm infants (24–31 weeks of gestation) compared favorably with most European rates. However, the U.S. mortality rate for infants at 32–36 weeks was second-highest, and the rate for infants at 37 weeks of gestation or more was highest, among the countries studied.

About 39% of the United States’ higher infant mortality rate when compared with that of Sweden was due to a higher percentage of preterm births, while 47% was due to a higher infant mortality rate at 37 weeks of gestation or more. If the United States could reduce these two factors to Sweden’s levels, the U.S. infant mortality rate would fall by 43%, with nearly 7,300 infant deaths averted annually.

Infant Mortality Statistics

December 20, 2013

A new report presents 2010 period infant mortality statistics from the linked birth/infant death data set (linked file) by maternal and infant characteristics. The linked file differs from the mortality file that is based entirely on death certificate data.

Key Findings from the Report:

  • The U.S. infant mortality rate was 6.14 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010, 4 percent lower than the rate of 6.39 in 2009. The number of infant deaths was 24,572 in 2010, a decline of 1,836 infant deaths from 2009.
  • From 2009 to 2010, the infant mortality rate declined 8% for non-Hispanic black mothers to 11.46 and 3% for non-Hispanic white mothers to 5.18. Asian or Pacific Islander mothers had the lowest rate in 2010 (4.27).
  • From 2009 to 2010, the neonatal mortality rate declined by 3% to 4.05 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births, while the postneonatal mortality rate declined 5% to 2.10.
  • In 2010, infants born at 37-38 weeks of gestation (early term) had infant mortality rates that were 62% higher than those born at 39-41 weeks of gestation.
  • For multiple births, the infant mortality rate was 25.41, almost five times the rate of 5.45 for singleton births.
  • The three leading causes of infant death – congenital malformations, low birthweight, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – accounted for 46% of all infant deaths. In 2010, 35.2 percent of infant deaths were “preterm-related”.

Infant mortality – Where does the U.S. stand?

November 5, 2009

In 2005, the latest year that the international ranking is available for, the United States ranked 30th in the world in infant mortality, behind most European countries, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Israel.

The United States international ranking in infant mortality fell from 12th in the world in 1960, to 23rd in 1990 to 29th in 2004 and 30th in 2005. After decades of decline, the United States infant mortality rate did not decline significantly from 2000 to 2005.

Infant mortality rates, selected=


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Report card for Nation’s health focuses on young adults aged 18-29

February 18, 2009
Young adults in the United States aged 18-29 face a number of health challenges, including increases in obesity, high injury rates, and a lack of insurance coverage compared to other adults, according to the latest report on the nation’s health from NCHS.
  • Obesity rates have tripled among young adults in the past three decades, rising from 8 percent in 1971-74 to 24 percent in 2005-06.
  • In 2006, 29 percent of young men were current cigarette smokers compared to 21 percent of young adult women.  
  • In 2005, unintentional injuries (‘‘accidents’’), homicide, and suicide accounted for 70 percent of deaths among young adults 18–29 years of age. Three-quarters of the 47,000 deaths in this age group occurred among young men. 
  • In 2006, young adults aged 20–24 were more likely to be uninsured (34 percent) than those aged 18–19 (21 percent) and those aged 25–29 (29 percent). 

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