Tibet's Infant Mortality

IN THE EDITORIAL on United States’ China-Tibet policy, Rose Marie Berger states, "Infant mortality is 88 percent among Tibetans, as opposed to 31 percent among Chinese" ("One Monk, One Yak," in "Commentary," July-August 1997). Whatever the true figures (88/1,000 and 31/1,000 would be a good bet), hers are wrong.

The standard definition of infant mortality is the fraction of babies born alive ("live births") that die before age 1. Wealthy Northern European countries have achieved infant mortality rates of less than 10/1,000. On the other end of the spectrum, some poor African countries suffer rates around 150/1,000. To say that nearly nine Tibetan babies out of 10 die before age 1 is not merely wrong by a power of 10—it defies common sense.

The correct statistics as of 1991 are 88.2 infant deaths per thousand for Tibet and 31 per thousand for China. The author apologizes to our readers, especially her college statistics teacher. — The Editors

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