It is unknown whether inequalities in under-5 mortality by wealth in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are growing or declining.
All Demographic and Health Surveys conducted between 2002 and 2012 were used to measure under-5 mortality trends in 3 wealth tertiles. Two approaches were used to estimate changes in under-5 mortality: within-survey changes from all 54 countries, and between-survey changes for 29 countries with repeated survey waves. The principal outcome measures include annual decline in mortality, and the ratio of mortality between the poorest and least-poor wealth tertiles.
Mortality information in 85 surveys from 929 224 households and 1 267 167 women living in 54 countries was used. In the subset of 29 countries with repeat surveys, mortality declined annually by 4.36, 3.36, and 2.06 deaths per 1000 live births among the poorest, middle, and least-poor tertiles, respectively (P = .031 for difference). The mortality ratio declined from 1.68 to 1.48 during the study period (P = .006 for trend). In the complete set of 85 surveys, the mortality ratio declined in 64 surveys (from 2.11 to 1.55), and increased in 21 surveys (from 1.58 to 1.88). Multivariate analyses suggest that convergence was associated with good governance (P ≤ .03 for 4 governance indicators: government effectiveness, rule of law, regulatory quality, and control of corruption).
Overall, under-5 mortality in low- and middle-income countries has decreased faster among the poorest compared with the least poor between 1995 and 2012, but progress in some countries has lagged, especially with poor governance.