Studying the Racial Gap in Infant Mortality Rates

Infant0-thumbAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12.3 Black infants for every 1,000 live births die within their first year of life. For non-Hispanic Whites, the infant mortality rate of 5.3 per 1,000 live births is less than half the rate for Blacks. Overall, the United States ranks 51st in the world in infant mortality.

A new study by researchers at the University of Southern California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Chicago compares infant mortality in the United States to infant mortality in Austria and Finland, two European countries that define and report infant mortality rates in the same manner as in the United States. Finland and Austria report some of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world. And the authors discovered that the reason this is so is because these countries take better care of the low-income citizens than is the case in the United States. This in turn may explain the racial gap in infant mortality in the United States.

The research found virtually no difference in infant mortality rates for babies in Finland and Austria and those of White mothers in the U.S. from high-income households. But for babies born to households that are not in the top quarter of household income, there is a significant increase in infant mortality rates in the United States, but no so in the European countries.

The authors of the research state that “in both Finland and Austria, post-neonatal mortality rates are extremely similar across groups with varying levels of advantage. In contrast, there is tremendous inequality in the U.S., with lower education groups, unmarried and African-American women having much higher infant mortality rates.” But the researchers also found that if Black infants were removed from the study, infant mortality rates for Whites from low-income households also were significantly higher than those for low-income families in Europe.

The paper, “Why Is Infant Mortality in the U.S. Higher Than in Europe?” is available here.

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