Poverty, urban-rural classification and term infant mortality: A population-based multilevel analysis

Yousra A. Mohamoud, Russell S. Kirby, Deborah B. Ehrenthal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Background: U.S. mortality rate of term infants is higher than most other developed countries. Term infant mortality is associated with exogenous socio-environmental factors. Previous research links low socioeconomic status and rurality with high infant mortality, but does not examine the effect of individual level factors on this association. Separating out the effect of contextual factors from individual level factors has important implications for targeting interventions. Therefore, we aim to estimate the independent effect of poverty and urban-rural classification on term infant mortality. Methods: We used linked 2013 period cohort birth-infant death files from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Counties were assigned to low, medium and high poverty groups using US Census Bureau county-level percent of children ≤18 years living in poverty, and were classified based on NCHS urban-rural classification. Bivariate and multilevel logistic regression models were used to estimate odds of term infant death, accounting for individual and county level variables. Results: There were 2,551,828 term births in 2013, with an overall term mortality of 2.1 per 1000 births. Odds of term infant mortality increased from 1.4 (95% CI: 1.2, 1.6) to 1.8 (95% CI: 1.6, 2.0) comparing births over increasing county poverty to those in the lowest. The associations remained significant in the multivariable model, for highest poverty 1.3 (95% CI: 1.1, 1.5). Similarly, the odds of term infant mortality increased with increasing rurality, from 1.3 (95% CI: 1.2, 1.5) in medium metro counties to 1.7 (95% CI: 1.5, 2.0) in non-core counties compared to large fringe metro counties. However, only rural non-core counties remained statistically associated with increased risk of term infant mortality after adjusting for individual level maternal characteristics. Conclusions: High poverty and very rural counties remained associated with term infant mortality independent of individual maternal sociodemographic, health and obstetric factors. Interventions should focus on contextual factors such as economic environment and availability of health and social services in addition to individual factors to reduce term infant mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number40
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 22 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Poverty, urban-rural classification and term infant mortality: A population-based multilevel analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this