In one of the best pieces of news I've heard in a long time, a recent study suggests that infant mortality has plummeted around the world in recent years. In 1990 11.9 million children died before reaching the age of five; today that figure is only 7.7 million. Even Ethiopia, which had an infant mortality rate of over 2 percent (not .2 percent, but 2 percent) in 1990, has seen that rate cut in half in the past twenty years.
Some have already seized on the fact that the United States now comes in 49th among the world's countries (it was 29th in 1990) when it comes to infant mortality, claiming that this reflects negatively on the U.S. health care system. Au contraire, says economist Steven Horwitz, who reminds us that far more babies are delivered pre-term in the United States than anywhere else in the world, and babies born prematurely have a much higher than normal mortality rate. "So the next time someone tells you," Horwitz concludes,
...that Cuba's healthcare system is better than that in the US because it has a lower infant mortality rate, the proper response is "yes, that's what happens when your system is so awful that you can't do much of anything for children born prematurely and your only choice is to deliver them stillborn. If you think a system with more dead babies is better, you can have it." A lower infant mortality rate doesn't mean you have fewer dead babies. You just have fewer babies born alive.