The brutal reality of child mortality becomes clearer when one remembers what it means for each woman who loses her child.
The following visualization uses the data on fertility – the number of children born per woman – over time and combines it with information on child mortality over time. Taking these two time series together makes it possible to estimate how many children a woman on average lost before the children were five years old.
Below you see the data for Sweden which is one of the country for which we have the best historical data, the Swedish office for population statistics Tabellverket was founded as early as 1749.1 The visualization shows that throughout most of the 19th century Swedish women gave birth to more than 4 children. As we have shown in the Our World In Data-entry on child mortality, in 19th century Sweden 1 out of 4 children died before its 5th birthday: This means that fertility and child mortality were so high that on average every woman lost 1 of her children before they could celebrate their 5th birthday.
With the decline of child mortality and fertility this became very rare. In 2015 Swedish women lost on average 0.006 children before they were 5 years old.
In this visualization you can change the country for which this time-series is visualized to explore the trends in countries around the world. To compare the number of children lost per woman for several countries – and see the data on a world map – you can use this visualisation.
The data shown in this visualization is calculated based on the historical estimates of fertility and child mortality presented at Gapminder.org (see the sources tab in the chart for more information); particularly for the early period data coverage is not as good as one wishes and it should be understood that the presented estimates are coming with a considerable uncertainty.