New Research Report: "Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap"

Thursday, March 15, 2018
Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and Insight Center for Community Economic Development

Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap provides a foundation for identifying and understanding root causes of the racial infant mortality gap. The infant mortality rate is a key national indicator of population health. Despite technological advances in medicine and other health-related resources available to the average American, the infant mortality rate (IMR) in the United States is exceptionally high relative to other developed countries. For black infants, the numbers are devastatingly high. In 2013, the white IMR in the United States was five per 1000 live births — resembling economically advanced nations like New Zealand. In contrast, the black IMR was 11.2 per 1000 live births — a rate closer to that of lower income nations like Thailand, Romania, and Grenada.

Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap provides a foundation for identifying and understanding root causes of the racial infant mortality gap, with the authors asserting it is necessary to isolate the fundamental reasons why black women in the United States are more likely to have preterm babies. The infant mortality rate is a key national indicator of population health. Despite technological advances in medicine and other health-related resources available to the average American, the infant mortality rate (IMR) in the United States is exceptionally high relative to other developed countries. For black infants, the numbers are devastatingly high. In 2013, the white IMR in the United States was five per 1000 live births —resembling economically advanced nations like New Zealand. In contrast, the black IMR was 11.2 per 1000 live births — a rate closer to that of lower income nations like Thailand, Romania, and Grenada. In fact, black women experience the highest infant mortality rates among any racial or ethnic group in the United States. The black IMR has been roughly twice that of the white IMR for over 35 years. In order to decrease the national infant mortality rate, the authors assert that factors that maintain these disparities must be addressed directly.  There is a common perception that racial disparities in IMR are driven primarily by risky behaviors. However, the best available evidence does not support this assertion and indicates that systemic barriers to positive birth outcomes merit further investigation. Co-authored by Imari Z. Smith, Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards, Salimah El-Amin and William Darity Jr. of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, in conjunction with the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, this research brief provides an overview of the social determinants that contribute to racial disparities in IMR. It also provides policy and research recommendations to improve outcomes for black babies and their mothers. Click here to view and download Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality GapIn fact, black women experience the highest infant mortality rates among any racial or ethnic group in the United States. The black IMR has been roughly twice that of the white IMR for over 35 years. In order to decrease the national infant mortality rate, the authors assert that factors that maintain these disparities must be addressed directly.

There is a common perception that racial disparities in IMR are driven primarily by risky behaviors. However, the best available evidence does not support this assertion and indicates that systemic barriers to positive birth outcomes merit further investigation.

Co-authored by Imari Z. Smith, Keisha L. Bentley-Edwards, Salimah El-Amin and William Darity Jr. of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, in conjunction with the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, this research report provides an overview of the social determinants that contribute to racial disparities in IMR. It also provides policy and research recommendations to improve outcomes for black babies and their mothers.

Click here to view and download Fighting at Birth: Eradicating the Black-White Infant Mortality Gap.