Comparing Presidents, Child Mortality

This post is on child mortality and how its changed over time in the US. Why child mortality? Well, I want a good measure of health care. I had a few posts on the topic in the past, and it seems whenever you mention mortality rates, especially in the context of international comparisons where the US doesn’t look good relative to other developed countries, someone always pipes up about how Americans make unhealthy choices, like eating greasy crud and standing in the way of rapidly moving lead. People also like to point out that Americans have inferior genetics.

OK. Fine. But at the other end of the spectrum, infant mortality (i.e., the death rate of children under one year of age, leaving out fetal deaths) shouldn’t be as affected by Cheetos, bullets, and a tendency toward adult-onset diabetes. So let’s go with that.

Data for this post comes from Table 76 of the Statistical Abstract of the United States. So here’s the graph…

Fortunately, infant mortality seems to be dropping. Unfortunately, that rate of decrease does seem to be leveling off in the last decade or so.

Next, we have a summary of the results.

The summary confirms that improvements have slowed down as of late. A big drop occurred after 1996, and an even bigger one after GW took office. Interestingly enough, things were particular good under Presidents (before this one) for whom the confidence about the future wasn’t that great, such as Carter and GHW.

And now an international comparison… this is the data for all countries for which The World Bank’s Health, Nutrition and Population data platform has data.

Well, we do inch out Cuba. But if we do better than any major comparable industrialized countries I’m not seeing it right now. Now, I’m sure someone will say that different countries measure infant mortality differently. I wouldn’t mind seeing a reputable cite. I can believe the data coming out of Somalia is awful, but I find it hard to believe that the difference between us and other OECD countries that spend a lot less on health care, like Japan or Germany or France, is due to differences in counting.