Infant Mortality Rate in China

Infant mortality rate is the frequency in which infants (children under one year of age) die per 1,000 live births and this rate is generally an indicator of the level of health in a country. In the past, China experienced some of the highest infant mortality rates across the globe. For example, in 1996, the rate was as high as 24.7 deaths per 1,000 newborns. It was believed that the cause of this high infant mortality rate was due to the way in which the babies are being brought into the world. According to the article “Chinese Infant Mortality Rate Drops by 62 Percent,” babies that were born in poorer, rural areas and not in a hospital setting are four times more likely to die than those born in urban hospitals. It is also said that in 1998, less than half of the births in China took place in a hospital and the ones that take place at home are done by midwives that are not as familiar with assisting in a birth as the staff in a hospital would be. Currently, in the World Factbook, China is ranked 108 out of 224 countries with number 1 having the highest infant mortality rate and 224 having the lowest infant mortality rate.

Anthropologist Nancy E. Riley did a great job at portraying the issues that China has faced with their infant mortality rates and how they have been improving in her article “China’s Population: New Trends and Changes.” Her research showed that in 1954, infant mortality rates in China were as high as 139 per 1,000 births which gradually dropped to roughly 40 deaths per 1,000 births in the 1990’s. She believed that the decrease in infants after birth had to do with the fact that more women were giving birth in hospitals rather than at home. She also concluded that better water quality and social/economic changes also contributed to the decrease in the infant mortality rate. It’s interesting to read how her research documents the gradual decrease in infant deaths mostly due to the improvements in health care in China.


Catholic Online, “Chinese Infant Mortality Rate Drops by 62 Percent,” accessed August 7, 2014.

The World Factbook, “Country Comparison:: Infant Mortality Rate,” accessed August 7, 2014.

Riley, Nancy E. 2004. “China’s Population: New Trends and Challenges.” Population Bulletin 59(2). Accessed August 7, 2014.


This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. Josh Williams says:

    Nancy E. Riley wrote about the infant mortality rates in China. It appeared to me that she used a Clinical anthropology methods and a biomedical approach to determine the rate changes and increases/decreases in infant mortality rates across China. I think applying clinical anthropology to this issue allowed for a much better system of tracking the rates of infant mortality over the decades in the sense of monitoring whether or not women were participating in home births or hospital births. Also, I think that with these improved methods of tracking, they were able to create more efficient systems and programs for educating and preparing people so that they understand the risk factors that contribute to high infant mortality and help prevent it in future generations. These tracking methods allowed Riley to determine that the dropping mortality rates correlated with an increased number of women participating in hospital birthing sessions over time. This anthropological approach also could have benefited the physicians in the country by allowing them to track the specific areas in the country were at the highest risk of infant mortality and allowing them to create their own individual methods to prevent infant mortality that would suit each individual community.

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