In 2002, 27,970 infants died before their first birthday. The
infant mortality rate was 7.0 deaths per 1,000 live births, representing
a small but significant increase from the previous year, the first
such increase in 40 years. The leading causes of infant mortality
include birth defects, low birth weight and prematurity, and pregnancy
complications. Approximately 25 percent of the increase in infant
mortality is due to multiple births.1
The rapid decline in infant mortality, which began in the mid-1960s,
slowed among both Blacks and Whites during the 1980s. Major advances,
including the approval of synthetic surfactants and the recommendation
that infants be placed on their backs when sleeping, may have contributed
to a renewed decline during the 1990s. In 2002, the leading cause
of infant mortality was congenital malformations, deformations and
chromosomal abnormalities, which accounted for 20.2 percent of infant
Based on preliminary data, mortality among non-Hispanic Black infants
remained stable at 13.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002. The
rate of 5.8 deaths per 1,000 live births among non-Hispanic White
infants represented a slight increase over the rate in 2001. The
infant mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black infants continues to
be 2.5 times that of non-Hispanic White infants. Although the trend
in infant mortality rates among non-Hispanic Blacks and non-Hispanic
Whites has generally declined throughout the 20th century, the proportional
discrepancy between the non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic White
rates remains largely unchanged.
The Maternal and Child Health Block Grant and the Maternal and
Child Health Bureau’s Healthy Start Program provide health
and support services to pregnant women and infants with the goal
of reducing infant mortality rates.
1 MacDorman MF et al. Explaining the 2001-02 Infant
Mortality Increase: Data from the Linked Birth/Infant Death Set.
NVSR 2005; 53(12).