17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:
Wednesday, April 10, 1912: I rubbed my shoulder rather badly when I happened to get a tumble. It’s sore yet, besides I have a big hole in my waist to mend.
Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:
Since Grandma’s diary entry a hundred years ago today is self-explanatory, I’m going to follow-up on yesterday’s post.
She wrote that her nephew died shortly after he was born. I wondered how much infant mortality has decreased over the years.
I discovered that the infant death rate has decreased a lot over the years–modern medicine has done wonders—but that it’s complicated to come up with accurate numbers.
First, a couple definitions—
Neonatal mortality rate—The number of babies per thousand births who die within the first 28 days after birth. (The definition was a little looser a hundred years ago.)
Infant mortality rate—The number of babies per thousand births who die within the first year after birth.
Now the complications–
In the early 1900’s most births were at home—and the births and deaths of babies who were stillborn or died shortly after birth were often not recorded. Only 7 states calculated a neonatal mortality rate back then, but fortunately Pennsylvania—where Grandma lived– was one of those states.
Pennsylvania’s neonatal mortality rate a hundred years ago was 140 deaths per thousand births which was about average for the states that calculated the rate. Today the rate is 5 neonatal deaths per thousand births. As it was a hundred years ago—Pennsylvania is still a typical state near the median of all states.
Likewise the infant mortality rate was much higher a hundred years ago than now. Back then 150 infants per 1,000 births died in the first year of life. Now it is about 8 per thousand births.
For those of you who care about the details or want to dig deeper into the data—
Since I couldn’t find 1912 details, I used 1910 data and assumed that the neonatal and infant mortality rates were about the same. Likewise, I couldn’t find 2012 data—so used date from the most recent year available (2007).
The rates from a hundred years ago are from a 1915 journal article published by the American Statistical Association called The Present Position of Infant Mortality: Its Recent Decline in the United States.
(It’s interesting that the title suggests that even in early 1900’s the infant mortality rate was declining. I wonder what it had been in the 1800s.)
The recent numbers were calculated by the Center for Disease Control and are on the Child Health USA site.