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Socioeconomic status and infant mortality in Australia: a national study of small urban areas, 1985-89


  • Turrell, Gavin
  • Mengersen, Kerrie


This study uses small-area data for the period 1985-89 to examine the relationship between socioeconomic status and infant mortality in each of the mainland State capital cities of Australia. An unweighted OLS regression analysis based on 195 Statistical Local Areas (SLAs) that recorded five or more deaths over the reference period shows that standardised infant mortality ratios were significantly higher in areas with greater concentrations of low income families. This relationship was independent of the effects of low birthweight, Aboriginality, ethnicity and variability between each of the capital cities. To test for the robustness of this result a sensitivity analysis was undertaken. This involved (a) performing a Principal Components Analysis on a wide range of sociodemographic variables to derive factor scales that were subsequently included in a regression analysis, (b) using weighted least-squares regression and a Poisson generalised linear model and (c) including in the analysis all SLAs irrespective of the number of infant deaths. The sensitivity analysis supported the results of this study, thus validating the observed association between the socioeconomic characteristics of urban areas and their rate of infant mortality. Despite marked reductions in overall rates of infant mortality over the last century in Australia, socioeconomic disparities were still evident during the mid-to-late 1980s. Whether and to what extent this situation persisted during the early-to-mid 1990s will be known in the near future when the next collection of area-based data are publicly released. The results of this study, therefore, represent an important baseline against which more contemporary national trends can be monitored.

Suggested Citation

  • Turrell, Gavin & Mengersen, Kerrie, 2000. "Socioeconomic status and infant mortality in Australia: a national study of small urban areas, 1985-89," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(9), pages 1209-1225, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:50:y:2000:i:9:p:1209-1225

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    Cited by:

    1. Merlo, Juan & Viciana-Fernández, Francisco J. & Ramiro-Fariñas, Diego, 2012. "Bringing the individual back to small-area variation studies: A multilevel analysis of all-cause mortality in Andalusia, Spain," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(8), pages 1477-1487.


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