Infant Mortality

OWID presents work from many different people and organizations. When citing this entry, please also cite the original data source. This entry can be cited as:

Max Roser (2016) – ‘Infant Mortality’. Published online at Retrieved from: [Online Resource]

Infant mortality is now decreasing all around the world. This fundamental change contributed to the rapid increase of life expectancy globally.

See also the entry on the history of child mortality here on Our World in Data.

# Empirical View

Before the onset of modernity, every fourth child died before its first birthday. Over the course of modernity, the mortality of infants (children below 1 years of age) declined rapidly – first in the countries that industrialized early and now in countries around the world. This is shown in the following time series plot. It’s also interesting to note now infant mortality around the world seemed to vary a lot year to year, but since the 1960s, the decline has become much steadier.

# Deaths of infants before their first birthday (per 1,000 live births) – Max Roser1

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Through this world map you can see the dramatic decrease in infant mortality over the last 60 years. In the early 1950s, only the most industrialized nations had at the time had less than 74 deaths per 1,000 live births. Today, only a few developing countries have rates higher than this.

# World maps of infant mortality, 1830 to 2010 – Max Roser2

# Correlates, Determinants & Consequences

See the corresponding section in the entry on the decline of child mortality.

# Data Quality & Definition

Infant mortality is most often defined as the number of deaths of children under 1 year of age per 1,000 live births.

# Wide within-country variation of infant mortality

Country averages of infant mortality sometimes obscure the variation in infant mortality between regions within the country. Storeygard, Balk, Levy and Deane (2008) assembled a data-set that looks at the sub-national distribution of infant mortality.3 The data set covers over 10,000 national and subnational units worldwide. It is benchmarked to the year 2000. Understandably, many of the countries with the highest national infant mortality averages have lots of subnational variation in these rates, but even some of the most highly developed nations still see massive variation in infant mortality at the regional level. The most extreme example is China, which experiences an infant mortality rate near 0 in some regions but a rate around 325 at the other extreme.

# The wide variation of infant mortality within countries4

The wide variation of infant mortality within countries


The following map visualizes the subnational variation in infant mortality rates from the previous chart.

# World map of infant mortality on the sub-national level5

World map of infant mortality on the sub-national level

# Data Sources

# Long Run Data Sources

#  ‘Clio Infra’ Project
  • Data: Infant mortality rate
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by country
  • Time span: 1810 – 2000. Data are presented as decadal averages (1810 means 1810-19, etc.)
  • Available at: Online here.
  • Various sources are used (well documented online at Clio Infra). The main source is: Aboubarb, M.R. and A.L.. Kimball. “A New Dataset on Infant Mortality Rates, 1816-2002.” Journal of Peace Research 44 (2007):743. This dataset is available for download at prio here (it is called: M. Rodwan Abouharb & Anessa L. Kimball – A New Dataset on Infant Mortality Rates, 1816-2002).
  • Main data collectors of the Clio Infra data are Joerg Baten and Mathias Blum.

# International Historical Statistics
  • Data: Infant mortality rate
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by country
  • Time span: Annual data from 1750 onwards
  • Available at: The books are published in three volumes covering more than 5000 pages.6 At some universities you can access the online version of the books where data tables can be downloaded as ePDFs and Excel files. The online access is here.
  • These statistics – orignally published under the editorial leadership of Brian Mitchell (since 1983) – are a collection of datasets taken from many primary sources, including both official national and international abstracts dating back to 1750.

# Gapminder
  • Data: Infant mortality rate
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by country
  • Time span: The data goes back to 1800 but is relatively sparse during the 19th century.
  • Available at: Data and documentation are online here.

# Post 1950 Data

# The United Nations Population Division
  • Data: Infant mortality rate
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by countries and world regions
  • Time span: 5-year intervals since 1950
  • Available at: Online here.
  • An advantage of this data set is that there are no gaps in the data since 1950 (for all countries and world regions).

# ‘Child Mortality Estimates Info’ (CME Info)
  • Data: The latest estimates based on the research of the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation
    • List of available data: Under-five mortality estimates, Infant mortality estimates, Neonatal mortality estimates (for all three rates and deaths)
      Estimates of: Sex-specific under-five mortality rate, Sex-specific infant mortality rate, Annual rate of reduction of under-five mortality.
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by country.
  • Time span: Data availability varies but for some countries it goes as far back as the 1930s.
  • Available at: Online at
  • This very good source is published by UNICEF. It is possible to explore the trends country by country and to visualize the data on a map.

# World Development Indicators by the World Bank
  • Data: Infant mortality rate – “mortality rate, infant (per 1,000 live births)”
  • Geographical coverage: Global – by country and world region
  • Time span: Annual data since 1961
  • Available at: Online here.
  •  The data is based on estimates developed by the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UNICEF, WHO, World Bank, UN DESA Population Division) at