The infant mortality rate (IMR) is the rate of death of children younger than one year of age. In the United States, the IMR has been declining over time. However, it has been declining much more slowly than in other nations. As a result, the US global ranking in IMRs is also declining. This analytic essay explores some of the reasons why it might be undergoing this relative decline by critically dissecting secondary sources of data. We found that slow progress in reducing IMR over the past decade is partly due to lower birth rates among immigrants, who tend to have healthier babies than native-born mothers. However, this does not explain longer-term trends, which reveal a relative decline in the well-being of women of reproductive age. We speculate that longer-term declines are partially due to a deemphasis on government health and antipoverty programs. This deemphasis results not only in weaker socioeconomic support but also in rising medical costs, which are consuming an increasingly larger share of Americans' declining disposable income.

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