Infant, Child, and Teen Mortality

Publication Date:

May 08, 2019

Key facts about infant, child, and teen mortality

  • From 1980 to 2017, death rates for infants fell from 1,288.3 per 100,000 to 567 per 100,000. Similar trends are evident for child and teen mortality.
  • Death rates were highest among children under age 1, followed by children ages 15 to 19, 1 to 4, and 5 to 14.
  • In all age groups, males had higher mortality rates than females. In 2017, males ages 15 to 19 were more than twice as likely as females to die (72.7 versus 29.4 deaths per 100,000).
  • Reflecting enduring effects of racism, black children consistently had the highest rates of death, while Asian/Pacific Islander children had the lowest rates in all age groups.

Trends in infant, child, and teen mortality

Death rates for children have fallen dramatically since 1980. For example, rates for infants (under 1 year) fell from 1,288.3 to 687 per 100,000 from 1980 to 2001. From 2001 to 2005, however, rates rose, reaching 710.2 infant deaths per 100,000 in 2005 (Figure 1). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed the increase to a rise in the number of babies born with very low birthweight.[1] From 2005 to 2011, infant death rates resumed a downward trend, declining to 600.1 deaths per 100,000 in 2011. Since then, the rate has been relatively stable; however, at 567 per 100,000 in 2017, it is the lowest on record.

From 1980 to 2017, death rates for children ages 1 to 4 dropped from 63.9 to 24.3 per 100,000, while rates for children ages 5 to 14 dropped from 30.6 to 13.6 per 100,000. The steepest decline in both groups occurred from 1980 to 1985. Death rates for teens ages 15 to 19 also declined notably from 1980 to 2013, from 97.9 to 44.8 per 100,000. However, since 2013, their rates have been increasing, reaching 51.5 in 2017 .

Differences by age

Children are much more likely to die during the first year of life than they are at older ages. For example, in 2017, the death rate for children under age 1 was more than 11 times higher than that for children ages 15 to 19, the age group with the next-highest mortality rate (567 and 51.5 per 100,000, respectively). Among children who survive their first year of life, the likelihood that they will die decreases with age, before it increases as they reach high school age (Appendix 1).

Differences by gender

Death rates for boys are substantially higher than rates for girls in every age group examined here. The largest percentage difference is among teens ages 15 to 19; in this group, males were more than twice as likely to die as their female peers, at 72.7 and 29.4 deaths per 100,000 in 2017, respectively. Among infants, death rates in 2017 were 618.7 and 512.8 per 100,000 for males and females, respectively. Among children ages 1 to 4, death rates for males and females were 27.3 and 21.1 per 100,000, respectively, and among children ages 5 to 14, rates were 15.6 and 11.4 per 100,000, respectively (Appendix 1).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin*

In 2017, consistent patterns associated with race and Hispanic origin were evident for children ages 1 to 4, 5 to 14, and 15 to 19: black children had the highest rates of death, followed by American Indian/Alaska Native, non-Hispanic white, and Hispanic children. Asian/Pacific Islander children had the lowest rates (Figure 4).

In 2017, similar patterns were seen for infants, as the highest rate was for black infants and the lowest for Asian/Pacific Islander infants. Death rates for the remaining groups fell in between: Hispanic infants had the second highest rate, followed by non-Hispanic white and American Indian/Alaska Native infants. Compared to death rates of other racial/ethnic groups, the rate was especially high among black infants—more than twice as high as that for Hispanic infants. Infant death rates for racial/ethnic groups other than black were closely grouped, ranging from 420.9 to 466.4 deaths per 100,000.

 

*Hispanic children may be of any race. Estimates for black, American Indian/Alaskan Native and Asian/Pacific Islander children include Hispanic children in this report.

Other estimates

State and local estimates

  • State-level mortality information, from 1999 to 2017, for all ages: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2018). CDC WONDER [Data tool]. Retrieved from http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html.
  • State-level estimates are also available through the KIDS COUNT Data Center, located at http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data#USA/2/27/30,33. Estimates for infants are mortality rates rather than death Mortality rates for infants refer to deaths relative to the number of live births in a given year, rather than as a proportion of the total population under age 1.
  • Infant mortality rates for congressional districts, and child mortality rates for states, are available from the Social Science Research Council’s Measure of America project: measureofamerica.org/maps/.

International estimates

Estimates for infant and neonatal mortality and mortality for children under age five are available from UNICEF Data: Monitoring the situation of children and women. https://data.unicef.org/.

Data and appendices

Data sources

  • Data for 1999-2017:S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2018). CDC WONDER [Data tool]. Retrieved from http://wonder.cdc.gov/ucd-icd10.html.
  • Data overall and by gender for ages 0 to 14, 1980-1998: Pastor, P. N., Makuc, D. M., Reuben, C., & Xia, H. (2002). Health, United States, 2002 with chartbook on trends in the health of Americans. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus02.pdf.
  • Data by race/ethnicity for ages 1 to 14 and overall for ages 15 to 19, 1980-1998: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. (2002). America’s children: Key national indicators of well-being, 2002 [Tables Health 6.A., Health 6.B., & Health 7]. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.childstats.gov/pdf/ac2002/ac_02.pdf.

Raw data source

Mortality Data, National Vital Statistics System.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/deaths.htm.

Appendices

Appendix 1. Infant, Child, and Teen Death Rates (per 100,000 population): 1980-2017

Background

Definition

Death rates are defined as deaths per hundred thousand persons of that age. These estimates are based on death certificate data collected by law on every death in the United States and compiled through the National Vital Statistics System.

Citation

Child Trends. (2019). Infant, Child, and Teen Mortality. Bethesda, MD: Author. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/infant-child-and-teen-mortality

Endnotes

[1] MacDorman, M. F., Martin, J. A., Mathews, T. J., et al. (2005). Explaining the 2001-02 infant mortality increase: Data from the linked birth/infant death data set. National Vital Statistics Reports, 53(12). Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr53/nvsr53_12.pdf.