Infant Homicide

Publication Date:

Oct 03, 2018

Key facts about infant homicide

  • The infant homicide rate increased from 4 per 100,000 population under age 1 in 1970, to 9 in 2000, before declining to 7 per 100,000 in 2016.
  • Black infants face a substantially higher risk of homicide compared to their white and Hispanic peers, with rates of 15, 6, and 5 per 100,000, respectively; however, the homicide rate among black infants has decreased significantly since the early 1990s, when it reached 25 per 100,000.
  • Male infants face a slightly elevated risk for being killed in their first year of life, compared to females.

Trends in infant homicide

From 1970 to 1991, the infant homicide rate more than doubled, from 4 to 10 deaths per 100,000 children under age 1. The rate remained fairly stable from 1991 to 2000, but the subsequent trend has been generally downward—standing at 7 deaths per 100,000 in 2016 (Appendix 1).

Differences by gender

In most years, males have been more likely than females to be killed during their first year of life. Since 1970, this gap has mostly widened, although it has decreased since 2013 and nearly disappeared in 2016 (7.1 and 6.8 per 100,000 for males and females, respectively) (Appendix 1).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin1

Non-Hispanic black infants are substantially more at risk for homicide than other infants. In 2016, the homicide rate for non-Hispanic black infants was 15 per 100,000, while Hispanic and non-Hispanic white infants had rates of 5 and 6 per 100,000, respectively. However, the rate for non-Hispanic black infants has decreased greatly since 1990, when it reached 24 per 100,000 (Appendix 1).

State and local estimates

Both WISQARS and WONDER are maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Data and appendices

Data source

  • Data for 1990–2016: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) [Data tool]. Retrieved from
  • Data for 1979–1989: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2000). Compressed Mortality File, 1979–1989 [Dataset]. Retrieved from
  • Data for 1970: Freid, V. M., Prager, K., MacKay, A. P., & Xia, H. (2003). Health, United States, 2003 with chartbook on trends in the health of Americans [Table 45]. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from

Raw data source

National Vital Statistics System.


Appendix 1. Homicide Rates for Infants Under 1 Year (per 100,000), by Gender, Race, and Hispanic Origin: Selected Years, 1970–2016



Infant homicides are classified as deaths purposefully inflicted by other persons on children less than one year old. Data on infant homicide are developed by the National Center for Health Statistics, drawn from death certificates recorded by local medical examiners or coroners and reported to the National Vital Statistics System. These records code infant deaths using the injury classification framework developed by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes, 9th and 10th editions.
For more information about ICD codes see

A small number of stillbirths may be incorrectly classified as infant homicides. Medical examiners usually will attribute a death to infanticide only when they can rule out other causes (i.e., autopsy evidence indicates that respiration had occurred, no evidence indicates death from natural causes, and circumstantial evidence is consistent with homicide). [2]


Child Trends. (2018). Infant homicide. Retrieved from


1. Hispanic infants may be of any race. Totals for white and black infants in this report do not include Hispanic infants.
2. Knight, B. (1976). Forensic problems in practice. IX. Infant deaths. The Practitioner, 217(1299), 444–448.