RELEASE: New Analysis Finds Vast Racial Disparities in Infant Health Outcomes in the States

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released new analyses of racial disparities in infant health outcomes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. While the United States ranks 55th internationally on infant mortality, it spends 20 times more per capita than countries such as Serbia, which has a comparable rate. While the national rate is in itself alarming, the analysis shows that it conceals even more alarming disparities among state’s white; Black or African American; American Indian or Alaskan Native; Asian American or Pacific Islander; and Hispanic residents in both infant mortality and low weight birth.

The study relies on key measures to produce overall state scores—scoring New York highest and Mississippi lowest. The health policy indicators include Medicaid expansion; Medicaid eligibility; Children’s Health Insurance Program eligibility; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) coverage; infant home visiting coverage; and limited maternity care access. The economic and workforce supports include state earned income tax credit, state child tax credit, state paid leave, and state paid sick leave.

Key findings from the analysis include:

  • Many states are driving poor outcomes and greater disparities in infant health by failing to take advantage of promoting social benefits such as WIC and home visiting that are already available to their residents.
  • Across nearly all states, infant mortality for Black and American Indian or Alaska Native infants exceeds the national average. Trends in low-weight births are similar in that both nationally and within most states, a larger percentage of Black infants are born at a low birth weight compared with white infants.
  • Fourteen states and the District of Columbia have Black infant mortality rates that are or exceed more than double the overall national infant mortality rate, which is 5.8 percent. Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have Black infant mortality rates that are more than twice those states’ white infant mortality rates.
  • In all but one state for which data could be collected, the American Indian or Alaska Native infant mortality rate equals or exceeds the national overall rate.
  • Thirteen states have Hispanic infant mortality rates that are or exceed the overall average national rate. Ten states have Asian American or Pacific Islander infant mortality rates that are or exceed the national overall rate. And just 11 states have white infant mortality rates that meet or exceed the overall national rate.

“This analysis shows that the health and vitality of America’s infants vary greatly by race and the policy choices made by states in which they reside,” said Cristina Novoa, senior policy analyst for Early Childhood Policy at the Center for American Progress and author of the issue brief. “To narrow these disparities, states must adopt policies to promote the wellness of mothers and their babies and take greater advantage of policies already in place to achieve this goal.”

Please click here to read the issue brief: “Opportunities for States To Improve Infant Health Outcomes” by Cristina Novoa

Please click here to explore this interactive map: “Interactive: Opportunities for States To Improve Infant Health Outcomes” by Cristina Novoa and Mathew Brady

Please click here to explore this interactive dot plot: “Interactive: Exploring Infant Health Outcomes Across Race and Ethnicity and by State” by Cristina Novoa and Mathew Brady

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at or 202-741-6292.