As part of the confidential enquiry into stillbirths and deaths in infancy (CESDI), a 3-year population-based case–control study was specifically designed to look at risk factors associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) after the dramatic fall in incidence. The study was conducted between 1993 and 1996 in five English Health Regions (population 17 million) with parental interviews for each death and four age-matched controls. The aim of this analysis was to investigate the extent to which epidemiological characteristics associated with SIDS were particular to the syndrome or more general markers for socio-economic deprivation. One control was reassigned to each case post-matched for infant age, time of sleep and socio-economic status using components of the Townsend Deprivation Score. The post-matched analysis involved 323 SIDS infants and 323 controls with a similar socio-economic profile. Notable factors significant in the original univariable analysis that became non-significant after post-matching included young maternal age (median: 23 years 4 months SIDS vs. 23 years 11 months post-matched controls), being an unsupported mother (13.6% SIDS vs. 11.1% post-matched controls) and being bottle-fed (56.7% SIDS vs. 55.4% post-matched controls). Other factors, although clearly related to deprivation, such as parental smoking, remained significant in both the univariable and multivariable post-matched analyses.