Tools for arguments: Why are US infant mortality rates higher?

Tools for Arguments attempts to provide important facts (in a short form) to advocates for liberty, which they can and should use when discussing libertarian ideas.

In discussions about healthcare, and its liberalisation in particular, the stat regarding American infant mortality rates is brought up continuously. “If the wonderfully privatised healthcare system is so great, how is it possible that infant mortality is higher than most developed countries?”, is a question which advocates of liberalisation will be confronted with.

The system of American healthcare can hardly be described as being “privatised”, but that is a story for another time. It is however true that with more than 23,000 American infants dying in 2014, or about 6 for every 1,000 live births, the US rates worse than Cuba, which Huffington Post is all too eager to point out. How is it possible that a communist country which’s policy has wrecked the economy and created thousands of refugees which would rather swim through the ocean than stay another minute under the Castro regime, manages to have lower infant mortality rates? The truth lies in the definition.

Babies with very little weight and only 24 weeks of gestation have very little chance of survival, which is why most countries put them in the category of stillbirths. In the United States, however, these babies are considered to be born, which means that their death falls in the category of infant mortality. Stillbirths are considerably common, and can be related to multiple maternal causes, like diabetes, high blood pressure, Zika, other infections or even age. Other causes of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) among American babies are related to bad habits of parents. Many parents are still not following sleep recommendations to prevent SIDS: more than 20 percent of babies in the United States are still not being put on their backs — the safest position — to sleep.

The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states the following:

“If the United States had Sweden’s distribution of births by gestational age, the U.S. infant mortality rate (excluding births at less than 22 weeks of gestation) would go from 5.8 to 3.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births—a decline of 33%.”


This article was first published on SpeakFreely.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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