Disparate Disparities: Understanding Differences in Infant Mortality across Racial and Ethnic Groups

Steven Haider, Michigan State University
John Goddeeris, Michigan State University
Todd Elder, Michigan State University

We analyze the disparity between several race and ethnic groups and whites in a fundamental measure of population health: the rate at which infants die. Using micro-level Vital Statistics data from 2000 to 2004, we separate mortality disparities into three temporal components, and we assess the extent to which these components are predictable by observable background characteristics. The temporal patterns vary substantially across racial and ethnic groups: relative to whites, the high infant mortality rates of blacks and Puerto Ricans are primarily driven by disadvantages in fitness at birth, but the high infant mortality rate of Native Americans is driven by excess infant deaths during the post-neonatal period. Differences across races and ethnicities in conditional post-neonatal mortality are largely predictable from variation in background characteristics, particularly maternal marriage, education, and age In contrast, little of the fitness disadvantage among blacks and Puerto Ricans is predicted by background characteristics.

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Presented in Session 202: Infant Health and Mortality in the United States