Disparity between Black and White Infant Deaths– 11.4 vs 4.9 per 1000– is Greater Today Than it Was in 1850


These questions acquire pressing urgency in the face of the continuing disparities in the health and survival of Black mothers and children today. Distressingly, although infant death rates overall have plummeted since the 19th century, the disparity between Black and White infant deaths today is actually greater than it was under antebellum slavery. Historical demographers estimate that, in 1850, enslaved infants died before 1 year of age at a rate 1.6 times higher than that of White infants (340 vs 217 deaths per 1000 live births).1 In comparison, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures from 2016 show that today non-Hispanic Black infant mortality is 2.3 times higher than mortality among non-Hispanic White babies (11.4 deaths and 4.9 deaths, respectively).

In addition, although Black women live longer lives now, the effects of racism have reverberated in their lives and those of their children in damaging and fatal ways. Since 1994, maternal mortality has dropped by almost 50% worldwide. Yet, between 2000 and 2013, high Black maternal death rates placed the United States second worst in maternal mortality among 31 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations.1 In the United States, pregnancy-related mortality is three to four times higher among Black women than among White women.

Since the 1990s, research on maternal and infant death disparities has increasingly pointed to structural racism in society at large as a stressor that harms African American women at both physiological and genetic levels. Conditions such as hypertension, which have been linked to the stress of living in a racist society, contribute to disparities in pregnancy-related complications such as eclampsia. These detrimental health effects of daily life are then further compounded by racial discrimination and disregard within medical institutions. ..”

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6727302/
Owens DC, Fett SM. Black Maternal and Infant Health: Historical Legacies of Slavery. Am J Public Health. 2019;109(10):1342–1345. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2019.305243

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