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Health & Baby

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Infant Mortality: U.S. Ranks 29th

U.S. Ties Slovakia, Poland for 29th Place in Infant Deaths
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 15, 2008 -- The U.S. ranks 29th worldwide in infant mortality, tying Slovakia and Poland but lagging behind Cuba, the CDC reports.

The CDC's latest estimates for international rankings are based on 2004 data. But as of 2005, the numbers haven't changed much since 2000.

Nearly seven U.S. babies die out of every 1,000 live births. More than 28,000 American babies die before their first birthday.

In Japan, ranked in third place behind Singapore and Hong Kong, the infant mortality rate is 2.8 per thousand live births -- less than half the U.S. rate.

In one way, the U.S. has improved since 1960. Back then, 26 in 1,000 infants died. That was good enough to land the U.S. in 12th place.

We've advanced since then, but not as fast as many other nations. By 1990, the U.S. had fallen to 23rd place.

"The U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than rates in most other developed countries," note CDC researchers Marian F. MacDorman, PhD, and T.J. Mathews. "The relative position of the United States in comparison to countries with the lowest infant mortality rates appears to be worsening."

What's going on? Racial and ethnic disparities clearly play a role. In 2005, for every 1,000 live births, the infant mortality rate was:

  • 13.63 among non-Hispanic black Americans
  • 5.76 among non-Hispanic white Americans

Premature birth is a factor in more than two-thirds of infant deaths. From 2000 to 2005, the U.S. preterm birth rate went up from 11.6% to 12.7%.

MacDorman and Mathews report the data in the CDC's October 2008 National Center for Health Statistics data brief, "Recent Trends in Infant Mortality in the United States."

Infant Mortality Rates by Country

Here is the complete list of infant mortality rates per 1,000 live births for 2004:

1. Singapore 2.0

2. Hong Kong 2.5

3. Japan 2.8

4. Sweden 3.1

5. Norway 3.2

6. Finland 3.3

7. Spain 3.5

8. Czech Republic 3.7

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