A new report from the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development provides information on the racial gap in infant mortality and offers strategies that may be employed to eliminate the disparity.
The data shows that about five infants out of every 1,000 live births die in their first year after birth in the United States. But for Black infants, 11 of every 1,000 die before their first birthday. In 2015, 23,458 Americans died before their first birthdays and 28.2 percent of these deaths were Black infants.
The Black infant mortality rate is as high as the rate in many countries of the developing world. The data shows that the Black-White disparity for infant mortality exists at all educational levels, and it is greatest for Black mothers who earn a master’s degree or higher.
Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards, an assistant professor of general internal medicine and director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center’s Health Equity Working Group at Duke and a co-author of the report, states that “people tend to overlook the fact that racial discrimination has played a major role in the infant mortality rate gap between White and Black infants. Particularly for Black women, despite age, educational attainment and socioeconomic status, the exposure to racial inequities and injustices throughout their life directly impact their birth outcome.”
The report goes on to propose policies and programs that prioritize healthy maternal and child outcomes for Black women. The authors call for additional research on the impact of racism-induced stress on health outcomes and identifying insulating mechanisms can be used to lessen the impact of racism-induced stress on African American women.
The full report, Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap, may be downloaded by clicking here.