Texas Infant Mortality Rates

As early as 1899, Sir Arthur Newsholme is credited by I.S. Falk as having written that, "Infant mortality is the most sensitive index we possess of social welfare and of sanitary administration, especially under urban conditions." (1) In 1923, I.S. Falk went on to compare infant mortality to the clinical thermometer of a physician by stating that it, "bears the additional characteristic that - like the thread of mercury in the thermometer - it goes up and down with deleterious or salutary changes in the social, sanitary, and economic conditions of the people." (1)

In the 1940s, the U.S. Bureau of the Census was making such statements as, ". . . nearly everyone would agree . . . that the infant mortality rate . . . is a most important index in Public Health work." (2) More recently, the Texas Department of State Health Services reports that "The infant mortality rate is a measure of the overall health of a community. High infant mortality rates may indicate poor maternal health, inadequate prenatal care, infant malnutrition and or limited access to adequate health care." (3)

Since the infant mortality rate is a key measure of community health, it is important to be able to easily compare infant mortality rates for different time periods and geographic areas. This report provides static comparisons of historical U.S. and Texas infant mortality rates through 2008. These data come from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The data were taken from tables in historical volumes of Vital Statistics of the United States, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Currently, the NCHS data are available for Texas through the year 2008. When NCHS publishes more recent infant mortality data for Texas, the graph below will be updated.

This report also provides interactive capability for analyzing infant mortality rates for geographic areas of Texas by race/ethnicity for the years 2000 through 2010. These data come from infant mortality and birth data from the Texas Department of State Health Services. The software for the interactive aspect of the report was written based on Java 1.01 and its use requires a Java enabled Internet browser.

In terms of Texas resident infant deaths per 1,000 live births, Texas' infant mortality rate (IMR) has declined from 28.9 in 1960 to 6.2 in 2008. Not only has Texas' IMR declined since 1960, it has declined faster than the nation's rate. From 1960 to 1978, Texas' IMR was consistently higher than the nation's rate (see graph below). Then in 1979, Texas' IMR of 12.9 dropped below the national rate of 13.1. Since 1979, Texas' IMR has consistently remained below the national rate. At this time, Texas infant mortality data for 2009 or 2010 cannot be compared with the national rate because the NCHS has not yet published its IMR rate for Texas for these years. However, IMR data from NCHS for 2008 reflect a Texas rate of 6.2 compared to a national rate of 6.6. (4)

Graph of historical infant mortality rates for Texas and the U.S. starting above 25 deaths per 1,000 live births, then decreasing to around 6 in the year 2000, but not decreasing since then.

Texas' 1995 IMR of 6.5, and subsequent years, met the Healthy People 2000 objective for infant mortality which was to "reduce the infant mortality rate to no more than 7 per 1,000 live births." While this was a noteworthy achievement, the Healthy People 2010 objective is "no more than 4.5 infant deaths per 1,000." There is still much work to be done in Texas to further reduce the infant mortality rate and reduce disparities between racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic groups.


  1. Falk, I.S.; "The Principles of Vital Statistics;" W.B. Saunders Company: 1923.
  2. Linder, FE and Grove RD; "Vital Statistics Rates in the United States 1900-1940;" United States Government Printing Office Washington: 1943.
  3. "Fiscal Years 1997 - 2000 Strategic Plan," Texas Department of Health.
  4. National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 59, No. 10, National Center for Health Statistics.
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Last Updated: March 29, 2012