Child Health USA 2006
Photographs of children's faces
Health Status > Infants


In 2004, 8.1 percent of infants were born at low birth weight (less than 2,500 grams, or 5 pounds 8 ounces); this represents an increase from the rate recorded the previous year (7.9 percent). The percentage of infants born at low birth weight has risen steadily from a low of 6.7 percent in 1984 and is currently at the highest level recorded in the past three decades.

The increase in multiple births, which are at high risk of being born preterm and of low weight, has strongly influenced the increase in low birth weight; however, rates are also on the rise for singleton births.

In 2004, the low birth weight rate was much higher among non-Hispanic Black infants (13.7 percent) than among infants of other racial/ethnic groups. The next highest rate, which occurred among Asian/Pacific Islander infants, was 7.9 percent, followed by a rate of 7.5 percent among American Indian/Alaska Native infants. Low birth weight occurred among 7.2 percent of non-Hispanic White infants, and Hispanic infants experienced the lowest rate (6.8 percent). Although low birth weight rates were lowest among non-Hispanic White and Hispanic infants, these were also the only two racial/ethnic groups to experience a significant increase over the previous year.

Low birth weight is one of the leading causes of neonatal mortality. Low birth weight infants are more likely to experience long-term disability or to die during the first year of life than are infants of normal weight.


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Child Health USA 2006 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Child Health USA 2006. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.