Race and ethnic disparities in fetal mortality, preterm birth, and infant mortality in the United States: an overview

Semin Perinatol. 2011 Aug;35(4):200-8. doi: 10.1053/j.semperi.2011.02.017.


Infant mortality, fetal mortality, and preterm birth all represent important health challenges that have shown little recent improvement. The rate of decrease in both fetal and infant mortality has slowed in recent years, with little decrease since 2000 for infant mortality, and no significant decrease from 2003 to 2005 for fetal mortality. The percentage of preterm births increased by 36% from 1984 to 2006, and then decreased by 4% from 2006 to 2008. There are substantial race and ethnic disparities in fetal and infant mortality and preterm birth, with non-Hispanic black women at greatest risk of unfavorable birth outcomes, followed by American Indian and Puerto Rican women. Infant mortality, fetal mortality, and preterm birth are multifactorial and interrelated problems with similarities in etiology, risk factors and disease pathways. Preterm birth prevention is critical to lowering the infant mortality rate, and to reducing race and ethnic disparities in infant mortality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Female
  • Fetal Mortality* / ethnology
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American
  • Infant Mortality* / ethnology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology*
  • Premature Birth / ethnology
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult