Infant Mortality Rates In The United States By Ethnicity

About 22,000 infants die every year in the United States
About 22,000 infants die every year in the United States
  • About 22,000 infants die every year in the United States
  • Infant mortality rate in the US in 2017 was 5.79 infant deaths per 1,000 live births
  • Black infants are three times likely to die from preterm-related issues than White infants

Infant mortality is a growing concern in the United States with an average of 22,000 children dying every year before their first birthday. The infant mortality rate is the number of infant death for every 1,000 live birth. In 2017, the infant mortality rate in the US was 5.79 deaths/1,000live births. According to the statistics, Mississippi has the highest infant death rates while Massachusetts has the lowest rate. The two major causes of infant deaths in the US are congenital malformation and sudden infant death syndrome. Other causes include preterm birth, pregnancy complications, and infant injuries such as suffocation.  The infant mortality rate varies from one ethnicity to the other. Below is an analysis of the infant mortality rate by ethnicity.

Ethnicities With The Highest Infant Mortality Rates


Infant mortality by race in the United States reveals that more Black babies die before their first birthday than any other race. In 2017, the infant mortality rate for the black babies was 10.97, more than twice the rate among Asian, White, and Hispanic babies and nearly double the national rate. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 7,000 black children died before their first birthday, of which the majority of the children (5.85 deaths/1,000 live births) died within the one week of their birth. Additionally, the mortality rate among children who made it past one month was 3.82. Higher preterm birth rate and low birth weight are the two leading causes of infant mortality rate among Black children. According to the 2017 report, babies born to Black mothers are three times likely to die of preterm related complications as babies born to White women. Socioeconomic status and access to proper nutrition and proper healthcare are also cited as the cause for the disparity in infant mortality rate

American Indian/Alaska Natives

According to the US Department Health and Human Services, the infant mortality rate in American Indian/Alaskan Natives is twice that of non-Hispanic Whites. In 2017, the rate of infant deaths per 1,000 American Indian live birth was 9.21. Available data also reveals that Indian infants are twice likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome as non-Hispanic White. The leading cause of infant death in American Indian babies was congenital malformations, accounting for 16.7 deaths per 1,000 live births. Other major causes of infant deaths were low birthweight and unintentional injuries. Late or no prenatal visits have also contributed to the high infant mortality rate. In 2017, American Indian mother was 2.8 times likely to receive late or no prenatal services compared to White mothers. According to the CDC report, the infant mortality rate was particularly high among mothers aged under 20 years and those aged above 35 years.

Native Hawaiian Or Other Pacific Islanders

Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islanders represent about 0.4% of the US population, out of which about 370,000 reside in Hawaii. Compared to other ethnic groups, Native Hawaiians have higher rates of alcohol consumption, smoking, and obesity. These and other factors have led to a higher infant mortality rate among the ethnic group. While the overall rate of infant deaths for Native Hawaiians is slightly comparable to the White population, disparities still exist. According to the CDC report (2017), infants born of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders' mother is 60% likely to die as infants born of White mothers. The overall infant mortality rate among the ethnic group was at 7.64 deaths per 1,000 live births. The leading causes of death among Native Hawaiian infants are preterm-related issues, birth defects, and low birth weight. Maternal complication during pregnancy has also resulted in a significant number of infant deaths.


The infant mortality rate is slightly higher among Hispanic Americans compared to White Americans. In 2017, 5.10 infant deaths per 1,000 live births were recorded among infants born of Hispanic mothers. The infant mortality rate ranges from 4 deaths per 1,000 live births in Cuban Americans to 6.5 deaths/1,000 live births for Puerto Ricans. Mexicans recorded an infant death rate of 5.1 while Central and South Americans recorded 4.5 deaths/1,000 live births. According to the CDC report, 70% of Hispanic mothers were likely to receive no or late prenatal services than non-Hispanic Whites. About 1,200 Hispanic infant deaths were caused by congenital malformation or birth defects. Another 764 deaths resulted from low birth weight while maternal complications resulted in 310 deaths. Hispanic mothers aged 40-54 years accounted for the highest infant mortality rate (7.1).


White Americans are considered the wealthiest and healthiest ethnic group in the United States. It is, therefore, no surprise that the infant mortality rate among the Whites is the second-lowest in the US. The mortality rate among white infants (4.67) is at least 50% lower than for Blacks. Unique characteristics have been witnessed among white women which may have contributed to the low infant mortality. More proportion of white women attend prenatal care than any other ethnic group. It has also been observed that the majority begin their prenatal visits very early and follow through to the end of their pregnancy. White women have easy access to health care, meaning that chronic diseases that may affect pregnancy are likely to be treated. Infant mortality causes such as sudden infant death syndrome and low birthweight are not common among the white population. 


According to the 2017 population estimates, there are approximately 18 million Asian Americans in the US, representing 5.6% of the population. The largest population of Asian Americans is found in California, New York, Texas, and New Jersey. This ethnic group contends with numerous factors that may threaten their health such as cultural barriers and lack of health insurance. However, the infant mortality rate among Asians is the lowest in the country. According to the CDC, Asian women have a lower infant death rate than the overall population. Only 3.78 Asian infants per 1,000 live births die before their first birthday. The report further indicates that an Asian American infant is 40% more likely to die due to pregnancy-related complications as compared to White infants. The congenital malformation is the largest cause of death among Asian American infants, accounting for 211 deaths in 2017. Low birthweight is the second major cause of death, accounting for 162 deaths.

Infant Mortality Rates In The United States By Ethnicity

RankEthnic groupDeaths per 1,000 live births
3American Indian/Alaska Native9.21
5Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander7.64

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