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Child Mortality


According to preliminary data in 2009, 10,076 children aged 1-14 years died of various causes, which was a decrease of 335 cases since the previous year. The overall mortality rate among children aged 1-4 years was 26.1 per 100,000 children in that age group, and the rate among children aged 5-14 years was 13.9 per 100,000.

Unintentional injury continued to be the leading cause of death among children in both age groups, accounting for 32.5 percent of all deaths among 1- to 4-year-olds and 29.6 percent of deaths among 5- to 14-year-olds. Among children aged 1-4 years, congenital anomalies (or birth defects) were the second most common cause of death (10.9 percent of deaths), while among children aged 5-14 years, cancer was the second leading cause of death (15.9 percent of deaths).

Between 1970 and 2008, the leading causes of child mortality shifted. The percentage of deaths due to homicide increased from 2 to 9 percent among 1- to 4-year-olds and from 2 to 6 percent among 5- to 14-year-olds. Conversely, the proportion of deaths due to pneumonia and influenza declined from 9 to 3 percent among 1- to 4-year-olds and from 4 to 2 percent among 5- to 14-year-olds during the same time period.1

In 2009, mortality rates were higher among males than females in both age groups. Among children aged 1-4 years, the mortality rate for males was 28.8 per 100,000 compared to 23.4 per 100,000 among females of the same age; rates among 5- to 14-year-old children were 15.6 per 100,000 and 12.1 per 100,000 for males and females, respectively. There are also racial/ethnic disparities in child mortality, with non-Hispanic Black children experiencing higher mortality rates than children of other racial/ethnic groups. Among children aged 1-4 years, the rate was 41.2 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic Blacks, compared to rates of 23.2 and 23.9 per 100,000 for Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites, respectively. Among children aged 5-14 years, rates were 21.0 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic Blacks, 13.1 per 100,000 for Hispanics, 12.2 for non-Hispanic Whites, 10.9 for Asian or Pacific Islanders,2 and 20.2 for American Indian/Alaskan Native children.

1 Singh GK. Child Mortality in the United States, 1935-2007: Large Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities Have Persisted Over Time. A 75th Anniversary Publication. Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2010.
2 Separate estimates for Asians and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders not available.


This image is described in the Data section.

leading causes of death among children graph


Leading causes of death among children aged 1-14, 2008*
Age Group Type of Injury Death Rate per 100,000 Population
in Specified Age Group
*Data are preliminary.
Source: Mini┼ło AM, Xu JQ, Kochanek KD. Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2008. National Vital Statistics Reports; vol 59 no 2. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2010.
1-4 Years Unintentional Injury 8.8
Congenital Anomalies 3.1
Homicide 25.5
Malignant Neoplasms (cancer) 2.4
Heart Disease 1.1
Influenza and Pneumonia 0.9
Septicemia 0.6
Cerebrovascular Diseases 0.4
Conditions Originating in the Perinatal Period 0.3
Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases 0.3
5-14 Years Unintentional Injury 4.6
Malignant Neoplasms (cancer) 2.2
Congenital Anomalies 0.8
Homicide 0.8
Heart Disease 0.6
Suicide 0.6
Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases 0.3
Cerebrovascular Diseases 0.2
Influenza and Pneumonia 0.2
In situ, Benign or Other Neoplasms 0.2

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