Summary: Deaths

Spotlight on Key Indicators: Deaths

Learn More About Deaths

Infant Mortality
Youth Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury
Why This Topic Is Important
The death of any young person is a tragedy. High child/youth death rates also can be an indicator of larger system issues, such as community violence or problems accessing health care (1). Preventable injuries (e.g., from car accidents) are the leading cause of death for children and youth ages 1-24, nationwide (2). Among young children ages 1-4, the most common cause of unintentional injury-related death is drowning; among 5- to 24-year-olds, it is motor vehicle accidents (2). Homicide, suicide, cancer, heart disease, and congenital abnormalities (birth defects) are other leading causes of death for children and youth ages 1-24 in the U.S. (2).

Many fatal injuries can be prevented through environmental, behavioral, social, and legislative change (3). Death rates from injuries, and overall death rates, are higher for boys than girls (1). Inequities by race/ethnicity also persist, with African American/Black children consistently having the highest death rates compared to other groups, nationwide (1).
Find more information about child and adolescent death in's Research & Links section.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  Child Trends Databank. (2015). Infant, child, and teen mortality. Retrieved from:

2.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2015). Injury prevention & control: Data & statistics (WISQARS). Retrieved from:

3.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2015). Injury prevention & control. Retrieved from:
How Children Are Faring
California's child/youth death rate was 30.9 per 100,000 children/youth ages 1-24 in 2011-13, the latest data available. The rate has been on the decline since 2004-06, echoing national trends. Unintentional injuries, such as car accidents, drowning, and falls, are the leading cause of death for all children and youth under age 25 in California and nationwide.

Child and youth death rates vary widely among California counties, ranging from 17.0 to 67.6 per 100,000 in 2011-13. Similar to the statewide trend, rates declined in 33 of the 42 counties with available data between 2004-06 and 2011-13.

Young adults ages 20-24 consistently have the highest death rate (68.5 in 2011-13, statewide) compared to other age groups, and children ages 5-14 have the lowest (10.4). Among racial/ethnic groups in California, African American/Black children and youth have the highest rates of death (64.2 in 2011-13), nearly twice that of White (33.4) and Latino youth (28.3), and more than three times that of Asian/Pacific Islander youth (20.0). American Indian/Alaska Native children and youth have the second highest rate of death (54.4).
Policy Implications
Most child and youth deaths are due to accidents or otherwise preventable causes (1). Public policies aimed at prevention, education, and support of youth and families can address these causes.

According to research and subject experts, policies that could reduce child and youth death include:
  • Ensuring that existing motor vehicle safety laws are enforced, including those concerning seat belts, car seats, and drunk or distracted driving (2)
  • Preventing child abuse/neglect and supporting positive emotional health by promoting safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between caregivers and children; social factors associated with child maltreatment also should be addressed, e.g., neighborhood economic stress and poverty (3)
  • Setting school policies that foster "school connectedness" (i.e., the belief by students that adults and peers care about them), which is a strong protective factor against risk-taking behaviors, such as violence, drinking and driving, and not wearing a seat belt (4)
  • Providing routine and accessible mental health screening and services to youth to address depression and prevent suicide; further, policy strategies should go beyond preventing and treating problems, to promoting positive youth mental health (5)
  • Addressing risk factors for gang involvement and violent behavior by strengthening families (e.g., stability, parental supervision and support, and financial security) and schools (e.g., promoting safe, caring environments with evidence-based discipline policies), improving community supervision and engagement of youth, training teachers and parents to effectively manage disruptive behavior by youth, and teaching students social and emotional skills (6)
  • Recognizing that cancer, heart disease, and birth defects are among the leading causes of child/youth death, continuing efforts to ensure that all women, infants, children, and youth -- particularly those with special health care needs -- receive quality medical care that is safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable, and patient-centered (7)
  • Supporting continued pediatric cancer research to promote advances in understanding of risk factors and treatments (8)
For more policy ideas about preventing injuries that can result in death, see Safe Kids Worldwide. Also see's Research & Links section and the Policy Implications under these topics: Injuries, Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury, Gang Involvement, Child Abuse and Neglect, Cancer, and Infant Mortality.

Sources for this narrative:

1.  As cited on, Child/youth death rate, by age and leading cause, 2011-2013. (2015). California Dept. of Public Health, Death Statistical Master Files; State of California Dept. of Finance, Race/Ethnic Population with Age and Sex Detail, 1990-1999, 2000-2010, 2000-2060. Retrieved from:

2.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). A national action plan for child injury prevention: Reducing motor-vehicle related injuries in children. Retrieved from:

3.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Preventing child maltreatment through the promotion of safe, stable, nurturing relationships between children and caregivers. Retrieved from:

4.  Chapman, R. L., et al. (2014). Injury prevention among friends: The benefits of school connectedness. Journal of Adolescence, 37(6), 937-944. Retrieved from:

5.  Murphey, D., et al. (2014). Are the children well? A model and recommendations for promoting the mental wellness of the nation’s young people. Child Trends & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Retrieved from:

6.  Ritter, N., et al. (2013). Changing course: Preventing gang membership. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from:

7.  Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs and Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health. (2014). Standards for systems of care for children and youth with special health care needs. Retrieved from:

8.  American Cancer Society. (2014). Cancer facts & figures: Special section - cancer in children and adolescents. Retrieved from:

Websites with Related Information
Key Reports and Research
County/Regional Reports
More Data Sources For Deaths