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Infant mortality

The U.S. infant mortality rate has been consistently higher than the rate in other developed countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading causes of infant mortality are congenital abnormalities, low birthweight, preterm birth, maternal pregnancy complications, sudden infant death syndrome and unintentional injuries.

National and state findings

In 2017-2018, there were 5.7 infant deaths before age 1 per 1,000 live births, equaling roughly 44,000 infants nationally over this period. Infant mortality rates were highest in Mississippi (8.6), Arkansas (7.8), and Oklahoma and Louisiana (both 7.4); they were lowest in Massachusetts and New Hampshire (both 3.9), New Jersey (4.1) and California (4.2). Between 2015-2016 and 2017-2018, the infant mortality rate decreased 3% nationally from 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. Since 2012-2013, the infant mortality rate has declined 5% from 6.0 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Subpopulation findings

Infant mortality rates varied by mother’s race and ethnicity as well as age. The infant mortality rate was 2.9 times higher among infants of Black (10.9) than Asian (3.7) mothers. Mothers ages 15-19 (8.8) had nearly twice the rate as mothers ages 30-34 (4.7).

Additional related findings

  • In 2019, 8.3% of U.S. infants — more than 300,000 — were born with low birthweight. The percentage of low birthweight births was highest in Mississippi (12.3%), 2.0 times higher than in Alaska (6.3%). Low birthweight increased 4% from 8.0% in 2014. Between 2014 and 2019, low birthweight increased 15% in Nebraska (6.6% to 7.6%), 13% in Delaware (8.3% to 9.4%), 10% in Rhode Island (7.1% to 7.8%) and in North Dakota (6.2% to 6.8%). During this same period, low birthweight births decreased 7% in New Hampshire (6.9% to 6.4%) and Vermont (7.1% to 6.6%).
  • Disparities in low birthweight by race and ethnicity persisted. In 2019, the percentage of low birthweight births was 2.1 times higher among Black mothers (14.7%) than among white mothers (7.1%). Wisconsin and the District of Columbia had the highest low birthweight racial disparity (ratio of births to mothers in the racial/ethnic group with the highest low birthweight rate to the rate among non-Hispanic white mothers), 2.4 times higher among Black than white mothers.

Maternal Mortality

The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of all developed countries and is the only industrialized nation with a rising rate. Additionally, the substantial and persistent racial and ethnic disparities in maternal mortality are alarming.

National and state findings

In 2019, there were 20.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, equaling 754 deaths nationally. Among the 16 states with data, maternal mortality rates were highest in Kentucky (37.7), Alabama (35.8) and Georgia (34.0); they were lowest in California (11.2), Texas (18.3) and Pennsylvania (18.6). Between 2018 and 2019, the maternal mortality rate increased 16% nationally from 17.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. During this same period, maternal mortality rates significantly increased 70% in Florida (15.8 to 26.8), 23% in Georgia (27.7 to 34.0) and 16% in Indiana (24.5 to 28.4).

Subpopulation findings

Maternal mortality was 3.3 and 2.4 times higher among Black mothers (42.0) than Hispanic (12.6) and white (17.6) mothers, respectively. Between 2018 and 2019, the maternal mortality rate increased 19% among white mothers (from 14.8), 16% among Black mothers (from 36.3) and 7% among Hispanic mothers (from 11.8).

Additional related findings

Maternal mortality is a relatively rare outcome of childbirth, but maternal morbidity is less rare. Maternal morbidity is when mothers experience outcomes of labor or delivery that lead to short- or long-term health consequences. In 2017-2019 the maternal morbidity rate was 6.6 per 1,000 births, representing 74,255 instances over this period in which the mother experienced admission to the ICU, a ruptured uterus, a transfusion and/or an unplanned hysterectomy, according to data from birth certificates. Among the 47 states with data, the maternal morbidity rate was 3.5 times higher in New Hampshire (12.7) than in Florida (3.6).

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