Urban-Rural Infant Mortality Disparities by Race and Ethnicity and Cause of Death.Am J Prev Med. 2020 02; 58(2):254-260.AJ
Infant mortality rates are higher in nonmetropolitan areas versus large metropolitan areas. Variation by race/ethnicity and cause of death has not been assessed. Urban-rural infant mortality rate differences were quantified by race/ethnicity and cause of death.
National Vital Statistics System linked birth/infant death data (2014-2016) were analyzed in 2019 by 3 urban-rural county classifications: large metropolitan, medium/small metropolitan, and nonmetropolitan. Excess infant mortality rates (rate differences) by urban-rural classification were calculated relative to large metropolitan areas overall and for each racial/ethnic group. The number of excess deaths, population attributable fraction, and proportion of excess deaths attributable to underlying causes of death was calculated.
Nonmetropolitan areas had the highest excess infant mortality rate overall. Excess infant mortality rates were substantially lower for Hispanic infants than other races/ethnicities. Overall, 7.4% of infant deaths would be prevented if all areas had the infant mortality rate of large metropolitan areas. With more than half of births occurring outside of large metropolitan areas, the population attributable fraction was highest for American Indian/Alaska Natives (20.3%) and whites, non-Hispanic (14.3%). Excess infant mortality rates in both nonmetropolitan and medium/small metropolitan areas were primarily attributable to sudden unexpected infant deaths (42.3% and 31.9%) and congenital anomalies (30.1% and 26.8%). This pattern was consistent for all racial/ethnic groups except black, non-Hispanic infants, for whom preterm-related and sudden unexpected infant deaths accounted for the largest share of excess infant mortality rates.
Infant mortality increases with rurality, and excess infant mortality rates are predominantly attributable to sudden unexpected infant deaths and congenital anomalies, with differences by race/ethnicity regarding magnitude and cause of death.