U.S. infant mortality rate hits all-time low, but minorities still face higher rates

population, infant mortality

According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the infant mortality rate in the United States has hit an overall all-time low. The infant mortality rate examines the number of babies who die before reaching their first birthday.

In 2018, 21,498 infant deaths were reported, compared to 22,341 in 2017. This reflects a decline of four percent and is the lowest number in U.S. history. The infant mortality rate has been declining since 1995 and has dropped 17% since 2005.

“Although rates have declined substantially since 1995, there has been a slowdown in the rate of decline and the infant mortality rate has remained stable over the last couple of years,” Danielle Ely, a health statistician at the National Center for Health Statistics and study lead author told UPI.

READ: Washington Post: No proof that pro-life laws worsen maternal mortality rate

The CDC data shows that 66% of the infants who died in 2018 were born prematurely at less than 37 weeks gestation. The leading causes of death for infants were congenital malformations or inherited physical defects, which accounted for 21% of the deaths. Premature birth and low birth-weight accounted for 17% of the deaths, while maternal complications accounted for six percent, sudden infant death syndrome accounted for six percent, and “unintentional injuries” accounted for five percent of the infant deaths in 2018.

Despite the decline, the number of deaths of babies born to non-Hispanic Black women was substantially higher than the number of deaths of babies born to Hispanic women and non-Hispanic white women. In fact, babies born to Black women were more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday than babies born to white women. There were 10.75 infant deaths per 1,000 live births of Black babies compared to 4.86 deaths per 1,000 live births on babies born to Hispanic women and 4.63 deaths per 1,000 live births of babies born to non-Hispanic white women.

The infant mortality rate varies greatly between states. Mississippi had the highest rate with 8.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. New Hampshire had the lowest rate at 3.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. The national average was 5.67.

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