Eliminating the Racial Gap in Infant Mortality Rates

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.

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  1. Jahnes love. I experience this in 2003 when my baby girl Empress Afrique was born still at 33 weeks of gestation. I had been stressed to the max by racist Midwives and other problems such as the foreclosure on our house and searching for new places to live with 2 young kids, a bad relationship and no money or job. I had an M.A. and I was ABD in 2 doctoral programs. And I also think that my Ayiti ethnicity was held against me. I was born in the U.S. but folks still discriminate. I didn’t have the proper health care and we couldn’t afford any better. I still ache for my baby and I feel guilty about what happened to her. I so wish that I had delivered her early because she might have lived. I had very little support and I made some bad decisions. Blessed love.

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