From 1960 to 1988 the infant mortality rate for the United States declined by 60 percent from 26.0 to 10.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate declined slowly from 1960 to 1964, rapidly from 1965 to 1981, and then moderately from 1981 to 1988. Since 1970 neonatal (under 28 days) mortality has declined more rapidly than postneonatal (28 days-11 months) mortality, reversing the historic pattern of more rapid declines in postneonatal mortality. Because of this, a smaller percent of infant deaths occurred during the neonatal period in 1988 (64 percent) than in 1960 (72 percent). The gap in mortality between black and white infants narrowed during the 1960's, but widened during the 1970's and 1980's. The ratio of black to white infant mortality rates (or mortality race ratio) declined from 1,93 in 1960 to 1.77 in 1971, due to a more rapid decline in postneonatal mortality for black than white infants. However, since 1971, the infant mortality race ratio increased substantially to 2.07 in 1988, reflecting the slower decline in neonatal mortality for black infants. While for many years the gap between black and white infant mortality was wider during the postneonatal than the neonatal period, the gap in 1988 was wider during the neonatal period.
All material appearing in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced or copied without permission; citation as to source, however, is appreciated.