Here’s some good news. The U.S. mortality rate for babies during their first year of life continues to decline—from 25.9% in 1960 to only 5.8% in 2017, according to the World Bank’s Data Bank and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC defines the infant mortality rate as the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. Health experts attribute the decrease to a variety of efforts, including better prenatal care and care of women between births, fewer unnecessary induced labors, prevention of preterm and early term births, better sleeping conditions for babies, targeted home visiting services, and state and regional coalitions or partnerships.
Still, more than 22,000 infants died in the United States in 2017 even though the overall rates have continued to decrease. There are still significant disparities based on race and ethnicity. On average, black babies are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday as Hispanic or white babies. This is true no matter what the mother’s level of education. In the last 15 years, as communities have made efforts to reduce racial disparities, many states have created infant death review committees to help target resources to high-risk communities. A few states, such as Arizona, Iowa and Massachusetts, reduced their rates of black infant mortality by as much as 30%, but overall, substantial gaps remain.