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Demographic Determinants of Infant and Early Child Mortality: A Comparative Analysis

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Publication details

JournalPopulation Studies
DatePublished - 1985
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)pp. 363-385
Original languageEnglish


In this paper we examine the relative importance of a number of demographic determinants of infant and early child mortality using information from 39 World Fertility Survey countries. We include sex of the child, age of the mother at the time of the birth, birth order, mother's educational level and a number of indicators of spacing of adjacent births among the correlates of chances of survival for children below the age of five years. Mortality of firstborn children and of those born to teenage mothers is shown to be higher than average; that of later children and those of older mothers was not much higher than average, once other factors are controlled. Effects of poor birth-spacing persist even after other factors have been controlled, and are similar where a sib was born during the two years preceding the birth of the child, regardless of the survival status of that sib; however, mortality was higher when that sib had died, due to increased familial risks of mortality. Rapid subsequent births also raise mortality for their earlier sibs. The findings are generally remarkably consistent in a wide range of countries and associated mortality conditions, although attention is drawn to a few interesting geographically clustered exceptions which deserve further investigation. The study leaves little room for doubt that poor child-spacing is clearly linked to decreased survival chances.

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