Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Infant Mortality

Infant Mortality by Race and Ethnicity - Illinois 1980-2007

For an accessible version of the above chart data, please contact Jeff Peddycoart at jeff.peddycoart@illinois.gov.

The graph presents the infant mortality rates of African American, Asian, Caucasian and Hispanic infants from 1980 to 2007. It is clear from this illustration that there are significant and persistent disparities among these groups. The rate among Asians, for example, is better than the Healthy People Objective; the rates among Whites and Hispanics are close to the national goal, but the rate among African Americans while the lowest on record is at an unacceptably high level of 13.4 per 1,000 live births.

As can be seen in Table 5, although the infant mortality rate among Puerto Ricans has remained relatively stable since 1990, the decreasing rate among non-Hispanic Whites has lead to an increasing disparity between Whites and Puerto Ricans that began in 1996 and continues to worsen. It should be noted that the Puerto Rican infant mortality rate is based on a relatively small number of events, and that the rate, therefore, varies widely from year to year. However, an examination of these data aggregated over the past decade shows a clear indication of significant and unacceptable disparity when compared with non-Hispanic Whites.

Table 6 presents the ratio of African American to Caucasian infant mortality rates, regardless of Hispanic descent, over the same period. While the state has made steady progress in the reduction of infant mortality, the racial disparity between African American and Caucasian infants has not appreciably improved. The benefits of technological advances and perinatal care for mothers and infants continue to be realized as seen by reductions in mortality for both white and black infants, especially among the smallest and most vulnerable i.e. 500 - 999gm. However, the gains in survivability of very low birth weight black infants are offset by the higher frequency of VLBW births among blacks as compared to whites (3:1).

The Department has set the reduction of this racial disparity in health status as one of the top priorities of its Division of Community Health and Prevention. The Department's targeted infant mortality reduction initiatives -- CHSI, TIPCM and HBHC -- are promising steps toward addressing factors associated with VLBW and reducing loss of life. The Department will continue to work with partners at the federal, state and community level to identify, develop and implement new strategies to address this pressing health problem.

Table 5

Infant Mortality Rate Ratios for Select Racial and Ethnic Groups 1980-2005

Year Non-Hispanic Black to Non-Hispanic White Mexican to Non-Hispanic White Puerto Rican to Non-Hispanic White
1980 2.2 0.6 0.6
1985 2.3 0.8 0.6
1990 3.0 1.1 1.0
1995 2.5 0.9 1.0
2000 2.6 1.2 1.7
2005 2.6 0.9 1.6

Table 6

Ratio of African American and Caucasian Infant Mortality

Illinois:  1980-2007

Year Ratio
1980 2.1:1
1981 2.1:1
1982 2.2:1
1983 2.3:1
1984 2.3:1
1985 2.3:1
1986 2.3:1
1987 2.2:1
1988 2.3:1
1989 2.5:1
1990 2.9:1
1991 2.7:1
1992 2.6:1
1993 2.7:1
1994 2.7:1
1995 2.5:1
1996 2.8:1
1997 2.7:1
1998 2.7:1
1999 2.8:1
2000 2.5:1
2001 2.5:1
2002 2.8:1
2003 2.6:1
2004 2.5:1
2005 2.7:1
2006 2.4:1
2007 2.6:1