ranks among the highest in the peer countries, but the most glaring difference is low birth weight and neonatal and infant mortality.
The United States ranks poorly on low birth weight, prematurity, and maternal health. Figure 2-2 shows that the proportion of low-birth-weight babies in the United States (8.2 percent for 2005-2009) is the second highest among the peer countries. Among the 17 peer countries examined in Chapter 1, the United States had the 14th highest rate of preterm deaths before age 5 in 2008 (World Health Organization, 2010). Figure 2-3 shows the results of a recent analysis of data from 184 countries (Blencowe et al., 2012), which found that the rate of preterm births in the United States (12 percent) was comparable to that of sub-Saharan Africa. Two important antecedents of infant and child health—adolescent pregnancies and maternal health—also show a clear U.S. disadvantage (see Figure 2-2). Taken together, these measures indicate that U.S. children often enter life under unfavorable health conditions.
The high rate of adverse birth outcomes in the United States does not appear to be a statistical artifact, such as a difference in coding practices for very small infants who die soon after birth (MacDorman and Mathews,
FIGURE 2-2 Low birth weight in 17 peer countries, 2005-2009.
NOTE: Values (if present) averaged over 2005-2009.
SOURCE: Data from OECD (2012l), OECD.StatExtracts: Health Status (database).