UK Family Law Reform

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Rise in UK's child mortality rate is linked to inequality

By Roger Dobson 1st April 2007

Britain has the second highest child death rate among the 24 richest countries in the world, with infants in the UK twice as likely to die before the age of five as children in Sweden, a study has shown.

The researchers, from Dundee University, who link relatively high infant mortality with income inequality, found that in the UK the gap between the haves and the have-nots was the third biggest among the 24 countries. They calculated that the top 20 per cent of people in the UK have more than 2.5 times the income of the bottom 40 per cent, almost double the difference in Japan.

Their work, which is reported this week in the Journal of Public Health, analysed Unicef data on child mortality and income inequality. The study comes 14 years after the UK and other "Anglo-American" rich countries were strongly criticised in a Unicef study on child neglect in wealthy nations. That study did not report on child death rates but at that time the UK ranked 15th for child mortality;the new research shows it has now dropped to joint 22nd, just above the US.

The results show that the child mortality rate, based on the number of children dying before the age of five per 1,000 live births averaged over a four-year period, was below five in the top six countries - Sweden at 3.25, followed by Iceland (3.75) Norway (4.00) Denmark (4.25) Japan (4.50) and Finland (4.75). The bottom six were New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland (all 6.0), UK and Canada (6.5) and the US (8.0).

The researchers also calculated income inequality in each country by comparing the income share of the top 20 per cent with that of the bottom 40 per cent. The ratio was lowest in Luxembourg, Japan, Finland and Norway, where the income of the top earners 20 per cent was only 1.5 times greater than the bottom 40 per cent. But the ratio was 2.5 in the UK and 2.8 in the US.

"There is a very strong association between income inequality and under-five child mortality among the wealthier OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries,'' said the report. "Within this group the highest child mortality figures are to be found in those 'Anglo-American' countries which attracted criticism in 1993 in a Unicef study on child neglect. Since 1960, the relative ranking, based on increasing under-five mortality, of these countries has markedly worsened relative to the others.''

David Collison, who led the study, said: "All the Anglo-American countries do pretty badly. It is clear that inequality is linked to the poor position of the UK and elsewhere."


Ten worst states in the OECD for mortality in children under five

FRANCE 5.5 (deaths per 1,000)









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