Religion and Infant Mortality in the United States: A Community-Level Investigation of Denominational Variations

Ginny Garcia, University of Texas at San Antonio
John Bartkowski, University of Texas at San Antonio
Xiaohe Xu, University of Texas at San Antonio

A burgeoning body of scholarship has explored the influence of community-level religiosity (religious ecology) on various health outcomes. In this study, we enlist data from the Glenmary Census of Churches, county-level infant mortality rates from the NCHS, and select Census data to investigate the relationship between infant mortality and religion. Our study employs both aggregate analyses of major faith traditions (conservative Protestant, mainline Protestant, Catholic, and other religions) as well as decomposition analyses that subdivide conservative Protestants into four variants: fundamentalist, evangelical, Pentecostal, and other conservative Protestant. Our preliminary findings suggest that counties with a high prevalence of Catholic and most types of conservative Protestant churches are associated with lower rates of infant mortality. However, communities with a robust presence of Pentecostal churches exhibit significantly higher infant mortality rates. Thus, we provide evidence that cultural factors (county-level denominational variations) are an important determinant of infant mortality in the United States.

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