Visualizing the relationship between infant mortality rates & resource availability

Sharan Duggal
Posted on July 22, 2016


We know that war and civil unrest account for a significant proportion of deaths every year, but how much can mortality rates be attributed to a simple lack of basic resources and amenities, and what relationship do mortality rates have with such factors? That’s what I set out to uncover using WorldBank data that covers the globe for up to the last 50 odd years, and I found a strong relationship with some of the available data.

If you were to look at overall mortality rates, the numbers would be muddied by several factors, including the aforementioned causes of death, so I decided to look at two related, but more specific outcome variables – infant mortality as well as risk of maternal death.

Infant mortality is defined as the number of infants dying before reaching one year of age, per 1,000 live births in a given year.

Lifetime risk of maternal death is the probability that a 15-year-old female will die eventually from a maternal cause assuming that current levels of fertility and mortality (including maternal mortality) do not change in the future, taking into account competing causes of death.

While I am sure these numbers can also be impacted by things like civil unrest, it does focus on individuals who are arguably more subject to be impacted by things like communicable diseases and lack of basic provisions like clean water, electricity or adequate medical resources, among others.

So, what do overall mortality rates even look like?

The density plot below includes the overall infant mortality distribution along with some metrics indicating the availability of key resources. Infant mortality rates peak at around 1% and the availability of resources peak closer to 100%. In both cases we see really long tails, indicating that there is a portion of the population experiencing less than ideal numbers.


So to drill down further, let’s have a closer look at the distribution of both outcome variables by year. The boxplots below suggest that both Infant mortality rates as well as risk of maternal death have shown not only steady overall improvements over the years but also a reduction in the disparity of cases across country-specific observations. But the upper end of these distributions still represent shocking numbers for some countries with:

  • over 10% of infants dying every year (down from a high of 24% in 1961) and
  • a 7.5% probability that a 15 year old girl living today will eventually die of a maternal cause (down from over 15% twenty-five years ago).



Please note: points have been marginally jittered above for clearer visual representation

Mortality Rates across the Globe

The below map plots the 2012 distribution of infant mortality rates by country. I chose 2012 because most of the covariates I would eventually like to use contain the best information from this year, with a couple of exceptions. It also presents a relatively recent picture of the variables of interest.

As can be seen, the world is distinctly divided, with many African, and some South Asian, countries bearing a bigger burden of infant mortality. And if it wasn’t noticeable on the previous boxplot, the range of values, as shown in the scale below is particularly telling of the overall disparity of mortality rates, pointing to a severe imbalance across the world.



The map representing the risk of maternal death is almost identical, and as such has been represented in a different color for differentiation. Here, the values range from close to 0% to over 7%.



Bottom Ranked Countries Over the Years

After factoring in all 50+ years of data for infant mortality and 26 years of data for risk of maternal death, and then ranking countries, the same set of countries feature at the bottom of the list.

The below chart looks at the number of times a country has had one of the worst three infant mortality rates in any given year since 1960.

The chart for maternal data goes from 1990 through to 2015. It’s important to note that Chad and Sierra Leone were ranked in the bottom 3 for maternal risk of death in every year since 1990.

Please note that numbers may be slightly impacted by missing data for some countries, especially for earlier years in the data set.



Relationship between Mortality & Resources

Getting back to the original question, are there any low hanging fruit and easy fixes for such a dichotomous situation? While my efforts during this analysis did not include any regressions, I did want to get an initial understanding of whether the availability of basic resources had a strong association with mortality rates, and if such a relationship existed, which provisions were more strongly linked with these outcomes? The findings could serve as a platform to do further research.

The below correlation analysis helped home in on some of the stronger linkages and helped weed out some of the weaker ones.

Note, the correlation analysis was run using 2012 data for all metrics, except for “Nurses and Midwives (per 1000 people)” and “Hospital beds (per 1000 people)” for which 2010 and 2009 data was used respectively, due to poorer availability of 2012 data for these measures.


Focusing on the first two columns of the above correlation plot, which represent risk of maternal death and infant mortality, we see a very similar pattern across the variables included in the analysis. Besides basic resources, I had also included items like availability of renewable freshwater resources and land area, to see if naturally available resources had any linkages to the outcomes in question. They didn’t and so they were removed from the analysis. In the plot above, it can also be seen that average rainfall and population density dont have much of a relationship with the mortality rates in question. What was also surprising was that access to anti-retroviral therapy too had a weak correlation with mortality rates in general.

The metrics that had the strongest relationship (in the 0.75 to 0.85 range) were:

  • Percent of population with electricity
  • Percent of population with access to non-solid fuel
  • Percent of population with access to improved sanitation facilities, and
  • Percent of population with access to improved water sources

The first two require no definitional explanation, but access to improved sanitation facilities ensure the hygienic separation of human excreta from human contact. Access to improved water sources refers to the percentage of the population using an improved drinking water source including piped water on premises and other improved drinking water sources (public taps or standpipes, tube wells or boreholes, protected dug wells, protected springs, and rainwater collection).

Analyzing the strongly correlating factors by Region

The following 4 charts look at regional performance of the key identified metrics. The pattern follows the same as that seen on the static world map from 2012, but this also gives us a view into how things have been trending on the resources that seem to be strongly linked with infant and maternal mortality over the past 25 years. We see a fairly shallow slope for Sub-saharan Africa on access to non-solid fuel as well as on improved sanitation facilities. Improvements in drinking water access have been much better.

South Asian countries ranked lowest on the provision of sanitation facilities in the early ’90s, but have made improvements since.



My analysis found a very strong relationship between mortality rates and basic provisions. It also weeded out some factors which were less important. As a next step, it may be helpful to do a deeper country-specific analysis for African and South Asian nations that suffer from a chronic lack of basic infrastructure, to see where investments would be most fruitful in bringing these countries to a closer state of parity with the developed world.

About Author

Sharan Duggal

Sharan Duggal

Read more

Leave Responses

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Taj January 11, 2018
Can I simply saay whaqt a relief to find someone who genuinely understands what they aree talking about online. You actually know how to bring an issue too light and make it important. A lot more people should look at this and understand thgis side of yourr story. It's surprising you aren't more popular given that yoou definitelly have the gift.
Mariana January 11, 2018
Please let me know if you're looking forr a article author for your blog. You have ssome really great posts and I think I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I'd love to write ssome material for your blog iin exchange for a link back to mine. Please send mme an email if interested. Many thanks!
Fiona January 10, 2018
Hi there, yeah thos post is genuinely pleasant and I have learned lot of things from iit concerning blogging. thanks. January 9, 2018
It's actually vey complex in this busy life to listen news on TV, so I simply use internet for that reason, and get the most recent information. January 9, 2018
Hi everybody, here every one is sharing these kinds of know-how, thus it's pleasant to read this blog, and I used to pay a visit this bog alll the time.
Sylvester January 7, 2018
My relatijves always say that I am wasting my time here at net, but I know I am getting know-how everyday by reading thes fasztidious articles.
Kent January 6, 2018
Quality content is the kkey to interest the visitors to go to see the website, that's what this website is providing.
Blanca January 5, 2018
Peculiar article, totally what I waas looking for.
Wilburn January 4, 2018
I have read so many articles or reviews about the blogger lovers except this piece of wwriting is actually a god post, keep it up.
Henry January 3, 2018
Hello every one, here every person is sharing such familiarity, therefore it's pleasant to read this webpage, and I used to go to seee thiis blog everyday.
Petra January 1, 2018
What's up it's me, I am also visiting this site on a regular basis, this site iis really fastidious and the visitors are actually sharing pleasant thoughts.
Cora January 1, 2018
Amazing! Its in fact amazing post, I have got much cllear idea about from this piece off writing.
Aileen December 31, 2017
I've been browsing onlline more thaan three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my opinion, if alll website owners and bloggers made good content as you did, thee web will be a lot more ueful than everr before.
Nikole December 27, 2017
Hi there to every one, the contents existing at this web site are really awesome ffor people experience, well, keep up the nice work fellows. December 13, 2017
whoah this blog is excellent i love studyinng your articles. Stay up thhe great work! You recognize, lots of people are searching arounhd for this information, you could help them greatly.
Zelma December 12, 2017
An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been doing a littlle homework on this. And he acfually ordered me lunch due to the fact that I found iit for So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this iasue here on your blog.
Theodore November 9, 2017
Paragbraph writing is also a excitement, iff you be acquainted with afterward you can write if not it iss difficult to write. November 4, 2017
Just wish to say youhr article is as astonishing. The clarity in yojr post is just excellent and i can assume you are an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated woth forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please keeep up the gratifying work.
Gilberto September 20, 2017
We're a group of volunteers and stating a new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with valuable info to work on. You've done a formidable job and our whole community will be grateful to you.
Russ September 20, 2017
It's hard to finnd experienced people in this particular subject, however, you sesm like you know what you're talking about! Thanks
Roseanna September 17, 2017
Very shortly this wweb page will be fmous amid all blogging and site-building users, due to it's fastidious articles or reviews
Mauricio September 15, 2017
Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon every day.It will always be exciting to read through content from other writers and use something from other web sites. August 26, 2017
We are a gaggle of volunteers and starting a new scheme inn our community. Your web site provided us woth valuable information to paintings on. You have done a formidable job and our entire community will be thankful to you.
Charissa August 23, 2017
Hello there! This post couldn't be written mudh better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I most certainly will fokrward this information to him. Fairly certain he'll have a very good read. I appreciate you for sharing!
Rena August 23, 2017
Good info. Lucky mme I found your website by accident (stumbleupon). I've bookmarked it for later!
Miriam August 10, 2017
What's up, its nice paragraph regarding media print, we all bbe familiar with media is a wondeful source of data.
Cindy August 8, 2017
You ought tto take paqrt in a contest for one of the greatest ites online. I will highly recommend this web site!
Damian August 4, 2017
I really like it when people come together and share opinions. Grat blog, continue the good work!
June August 1, 2017
Hello, i think thqt i saw youu visited my blog so i came to “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to improve my webb site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!
Nina July 30, 2017
Do you have anyy video of that? I'd love to find out more details.
Billie July 27, 2017
I believe what you posted made a loot of sense. However, what about this? wha if you were to create a awesome headline? I mean, I don't wish to tell you how to run your website, buut what if you added something that grabbed people's attention? I meawn blog topic is a little boring. You could peek aat Yahoo's front page and note hhow they crrate news headlines to get people to open the links. You might add a related video or a related picture or two to get readers interested about what you've written. Just my opinion, it would make your posts a little bit more interesting.
Tilly July 26, 2017
Thanks in favor of sharing such a pleasant opinion, paragraph is pleasant, thats why i have read it fully
Sharan Duggal July 16, 2017
Thank you for the kind words. Feel free to share. Thanks, Sharan
Ewan July 16, 2017
Hello! Someone in my Facebook group shared this site with us so I came tto take a look. I'm definitely enjoying the information. I'm bookmarking and will be tweetging this to my followers! Superb blog andd superb design.
Sharan Duggal February 22, 2017
Thank you! Glad it was of some use to you. February 18, 2017
Hello.This post was extremely motivating, particularly because I was looking for thoughts on this matter last Monday.
تحميل مهرجانات February 11, 2017
Hi,I log on to your blog named "Visualizing the relationship between infant mortality rates & resource availability - NYC Data Science Academy BlogNYC Data Science Academy Blog" on a regular basis.Your humoristic style is awesome, keep doing what you're doing! And you can look our website about تحميل مهرجانات
Visualizing the relationship between infant mortality rates & resource availability - January 16, 2017
[…] Contributed by Sharan Duggal.  You can find the original article here. […]
Visualizing the relationship between infant mortality rates & resource availability – Browse your web December 15, 2016
[…] Contributed by Sharan Duggal. You can find the original article here. […]
Visualizing the relationship between infant mortality rates & resource availability – Cloud Data Architect December 10, 2016
[…] Contributed by Sharan Duggal.  You can find the original article here. […]