The Potluck

Minnesota infant mortality rate edges downward, bucking national trend

By: - November 3, 2023 1:46 pm

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Minnesota’s infant mortality rate, a measure of how many children die within a year of being born, ticked down in 2022, according to the latest data from the CDC. That stands in contrast with the national trend; infant deaths rose significantly last year for the first time in two decades.

Minnesota’s rate was 4.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, down slightly from 4.83 deaths the prior year. The national rate stood at 5.6, up from 5.44. 

Mississippi had by far the highest rate at 9.11 deaths per 1,000 births, meaning that nearly 1 in 100 children born in the state did not make it to their first birthday.

Babies die more frequently in the United States than in other parts of the developed world. Part of this disparity may be due to differences in how countries report birth data. But other factors, like high rates of premature birth and poor care in the first year of life are also driving the gap.

American mothers are also far more likely to die before, during and immediately after childbirth than their peers in other countries, underscoring the systemic nature of these problems.

“We know the health of mom and baby are intertwined,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cherot, president of March of Dimes, in a statement. “Today’s data underscores that our failure to better support moms before, during and after birth is among the factors contributing to poor infant health outcomes.”

The Minnesota Department of Health notes that in 2018 there were 6,000 premature births in Minnesota, and that those babies are at higher risk of dying in their first year of life. Prematurity and congenital defects combined to drive more than half of infant deaths in Minnesota between 2014 and 2018, according to the state.

Obstetric conditions accounted for another 12% of deaths, while Sudden Infant Death Syndrome caused another 11%. Like everywhere else, the state also has serious disparities between white and minority families on infant mortality.

Long term, the Department of Health notes that the state’s infant mortality rate has declined by about 35% since 1990, although progress has largely stalled over the past decade.

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Christopher Ingraham
Christopher Ingraham

Christopher Ingraham covers greater Minnesota and reports on data-driven stories across the state. He's the author of the book "If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now," about his family's journey from the Baltimore suburbs to rural northwest Minnesota. He was previously a data reporter for the Washington Post.