Premature birth, defined as delivery before 37 completed weeks of gestation, carries a number of risks, including immediate health problems such as respiratory distress, jaundice, and anemia, as well as longer-term health issues such as learning and behavioral problems, cerebral palsy, lung problems, and vision and hearing loss.
Overall, 11.6 percent of children were reported to have been born prematurely, a percentage that did not vary significantly across locations. Within urban and small rural areas, premature birth rates were highest among children from households with incomes below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Among children in small rural areas, for example, 16.0 percent of children with household incomes below 100 percent of the FPL were born premature, compared to about 11–12 percent of children in higher income households. Similarly, children in urban areas with household incomes below 100 percent of the FPL were more likely to have been born premature than those in higher income households (13.3 versus about 11 percent, respectively). There were no differences in premature births, however, for children in large rural areas based on household income. Within each income category, the percentage of children born prematurely did not vary significantly across locations.