Highlights of a new study from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

U.S. Infant and General Mortality: Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities

For Release July 9, 1995

An article in the July issue of the American Journal of Public Health documents long-term trends in infant mortality in the United States and makes projections through the year 2010. The data are from NCHS and reveal some very positive as well as negative trends.

  • The provisional infant mortality rate for the U.S. in 1994 hit a record low of 7.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. If past trends continue, the infant mortality rate for the U.S. as a whole will fall to 7.0 by the year 2000, which will meet the goal set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Between 1950 and 1991 the national infant mortality rate declined rapidly, at an average rate of more than 3 percent per year. This dramatic decline occurred primarily as a result of declines in mortality from such leading infant killers as pneumonia and influenza, respiratory distress syndrome, prematurity and low birthweight, congenital anomalies, and accidents.
  • Because the infant mortality rate in the past four decades has declined faster for white infants than for black infants, the black white ratio in infant mortality increased from 1.6 in 1950 to 2.2 in 1991. If past trends continue, the infant mortality rate for black infants will fall well short of the year 2000 goal of 11.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. This racial disparity in infant survival is likely to continue through the year 2010.
  • American Indian infants had the highest risk of death from sudden infant death syndrome and birth defects.
  • From 1964 to 1987 the gap in infant survival between the most and least socially disadvantaged groups increased significantly.

SOURCE: “Infant Mortality in the United States: Trends, Differentials, and Projections, 1950 through 2010,” American Journal of Public Health, July 1995, Vol. 85, No. 7; National Center for Health Statistics, “Births, Marriages, Divorces, and Deaths for 1994,” Monthly Vital Statistics Report, Vol. 43, No. 12, June 13, 1995.

For more information, please contact NCHS Office of Public Affairs (301) 458-4800, via e-mail at paoquery@cdc.gov, or APHA press office (202) 789-5677.