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Div. of Media Relations
1600 Clifton Road
MS D-14
Atlanta, GA 30333
(404) 639-3286
Fax (404) 639-7394

July 12, 2002
Contact: Laura Leathers
CDC, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention
and Health Promotion
(770) 488-5131

Fact Sheet

Infant Mortality

Infant Mortality

  • Infant mortality in the United States declined more than 45% overall between 1980 and 2000. However, the gap between black and white infant death rates has widened.

  • The percentage decline in infant mortality was greater for white infants (from 10.9 to 5.7 per 1,000 live births) than for black infants (22.2 to 14.0) during this period.

  • The black-white ratio of infant mortality increased by 25% between 1980 and 2000 (from 2.0 to 2.5). However, the ratio remained unchanged between 1990 and 1998.

Low Birth Weight

  • The percentage of low-birth-weight (LBW) infants ( <2500 grams or 5 pounds, 8 ounces) increased by 11.8% between 1980 and 2000. During that same period, the percentage of very low-birth-weight (VLBW) infants (<1500 grams or 3 pounds, 4 ounces) increased 24.3%.

  • During the 1990s, the black-white disparity in LBW and VLBW infants decreased slightly. However, these changes were due in part to greater increases in LBW and VLBW percentages among white infants, not large decreases in LBW and VLBW among blacks. Blacks continue to have a 2- to 3-fold greater risk than whites of giving birth to LBW and VLBW infants.

  • The two-decade increase in low birth weights was 14.0% for whites vs. 2.4% for blacks and in very low birth weights was 26.7% for whites and 23.8% for blacks.

  • The recent increases in LBW and VLBW among whites are probably due to increases in preterm delivery and changes in obstetrical practices and induction of labor. Another factor may be increased multiple births from assisted reproductive therapies, which often result in LBW infants.

  • Mortality rates for specific birth weights declined 47% for infants who were medium-birth-weight (1500-2499 grams) infants and 38% for infants who were very-low-birth-weight (<1500 grams). However, these rates varied by race, with greater decreases for the white infants.

  • The reasons for these black-white disparities are complex and are not entirely explained by demographic risk factors such as maternal age, education, or income. Prevention strategies should emphasize research aimed at preventing preterm deliveries and associated factors (e.g., infection). Effective, culturally sensitive intervention programs are also needed.

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This page last updated July 11, 2002

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