Graph of the day: The United States has a really high infant mortality rate

January 9, 2013

The Institute of Medicine is out with a sweeping look at how the American health care system stacks up against other industrialized countries. The big takeaway is similar to other research: While the United States spends more on health care, patient outcomes lag behind peer nations.

That's especially true, it turns out, with infant morality. The infant mortality rate in the United States is more than twice that of countries like Japan and Sweden. 

It hasn't always been like this. In the 1960s, the United States actually had a lower infant mortality rate than the average among its peer countries. The country began to lag in the 1980s. 
infant mortality 2

"Although U.S. infant mortality declined by 20 percent between 1990 and 2010," the report notes, "other high-income countries experienced much steeper declines and halved their infant mortality rates over those two decades."

As to what explains the high infant mortality rate, the researchers aren't quite sure. They say it is not explained by ethnic diversity in the United States. While U.S. minorities do tend to have a higher infant mortality rate, non-Hispanic whites in the United States also have worse outcomes than those in peer nations. 

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Dylan Matthews | January 9, 2013