The Persisting Racial Gap in Infant Mortality Is Not Easy to Explain

A new stuInfantdy by researchers at Michigan State University examines the lingering racial gap in infant mortality rates. The study points out that while the infant mortality rate has dropped over the past 20 year, the racial gap has remained virtually unchanged.

In 1983 there were 18.6 deaths of Black infants for every 100,000 live births. By 2004, the rate dropped to 12.3 per 100,000 live births. But the rate for White infants also declined so that the racial gap dropped only slightly.

Steven Haider, professor economics at Michigan State University and one of the authors of the study, stated, “What’s surprising about our findings is that when we take out all the factors we can observe – including mother’s age, education level, marital status and state of residence – the difference in the rate in which black and white infants die remained absolutely stable for two decades. We made no progress in shrinking that part of the gap.”

In other words, according to Professor Haider, if he could wave a magic wand and eliminate racial disparities in education, marital status, and other factors researchers accounted for in the study, it would only reduce the racial gap in infant mortality by one quarter.

The study, “The Changing Character of the Black–White Infant Mortality Gap, 1983–2004,” was published in the American Journal of Public Health. It may be accessed here.


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  1. Jaconda says:

    Have you considered that the trauma of racism, sexual assaults and discrimination have imprinted into the DNA and gets passed along, and is creating a PTSD phenomena in these newborns?

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