Though the infant mortality rate in the United States has decreased by 77 percent in the last 50 years (from 25.2 per 1000 births in 1963 to 5.9 in 2013), the U.S. is still worse off in this department than many other developed countries. In 2013, the U.S. was behind much of Europe, Australia, South Korea, Cuba, and Japan, among others. (Monaco had the lowest infant mortality rate in 2013—1.81 per 1000 births.) New research published in The International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that political factors may be affecting U.S. infant mortality.
"Infant mortality has been sensitive to all sorts of social contextual factors—from nutritional factors, to access to health services, to stress during pregnancy," says Arline T. Geronimus, a research professor at the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center, and a co-author on the study. "One might imagine [these factors] would be affected by political climates, ideologies, or policy."
With this in mind, the researchers investigated the effect of the president's political party on the infant mortality rate. They looked at data from 1965 to 2010, from the U.S. National Vital Statistics Reports, and only accounted for the president’s political party, leaving out all other factors that could affect mortality rates, like advances in medical technology. They also delayed considering the president “in power” by one year, since it would likely take some time for him to affect mortality.