Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Previously Published Works bannerUC Davis

Maternal and infant predictors of infant mortality in California, 2007–2015



To identify current maternal and infant predictors of infant mortality, including maternal sociodemographic and economic status, maternal perinatal smoking and obesity, mode of delivery, and infant birthweight and gestational age.


This retrospective study analyzed data from the linked birth and infant death files (birth cohort) and live births from the Birth Statistical Master files (BSMF) in California compiled by the California Department of Public Health for 2007-2015. The birth cohort study comprised 4,503,197 singleton births including 19,301 infant deaths during the nine-year study period. A subpopulation to study fetal growth consisted of 4,448,300 birth cohort records including 13,891 infant deaths.


The infant mortality rate (IMR) for singleton births decreased linearly (p <0.001) from 4.68 in 2007 to 3.90 (per 1,000 live births) in 2015. However, significant disparities in IMR were uncovered in different population groups depending upon maternal sociodemographic and economic characteristics and maternal characteristics during pregnancy. Children of African American women had almost twice the risk of infant mortality when compared with children of White women (AOR 2.12; 95% CI, 1.98-2.27; p<0.001). Infants of women with Bachelor's degrees or higher were 89% less likely to die (AOR 1.89; 95% CI, 1.76-2.04; p<0.001) when compared to infants of women with education less than high school. Infants of maternal smokers were 75% more likely to die (AOR 1.75; 95% CI, 1.58-1.93; p<0.001) than infants of nonsmokers. Infants of women who were overweight and obese during pregnancy accounted for 55% of IMR over all women in the study. More than half of the infant deaths were to children of women with lower socioeconomic status; infants of WIC participants were 59% more likely to die (AOR 1.59; 95% CI, 1.52-1.67; p<0.001) than infants of non-WIC participants. With respect to infant predictors, infants born with LBW or PTB were more than six times (AOR 6.29; 95% CI, 5.90-6.70; p<0.001) and almost four times (AOR 3.95; 95% CI, 3.73-4.19; p<0.001) more likely to die than infants who had normal births, respectively. SGA and LGA infants were more than two times (AOR 2.03; 95% CI, 1.92-2.15; p<0.001) and 41% (AOR 1.41; 95% CI, 1.32-1.52; p<0.001) more likely to die than AGA infants, respectively.


While the overall IMR in California is declining, wide disparities in death rates persist in different groups, and these disparities are increasing. Our data indicate that maternal sociodemographic and economic factors, as well as maternal prepregnancy obesity and smoking during pregnancy, have a prominent effect on IMR though no causality can be inferred with the current data. These predictors are not typically addressed by direct medical care. Infant factors with a major effect on IMR are birthweight and gestational age-predictors that are addressed by active medical services. The highest value interventions to reduce IMR may be social and public health initiatives that mitigate disparities in sociodemographic, economic and behavioral risks for mothers.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View