Race/Ethnicity, Maternal Educational Attainment, and Infant Mortality in the United States

Samuel Fishman , University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Robert Hummer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Gracia Sierra, University of Texas at Austin
Taylor Hargrove, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Daniel A. Powers, University of Texas at Austin
Richard G. Rogers, University of Colorado Boulder

Recent high-profile papers highlight increasing mortality rates among low-educated White Americans. This paper focuses on racial/ethnic-education disparities in infant mortality, a key measure of population health. Using 2007-10 linked birth and infant death cohort files, we find that while education-specific infant mortality rates are similar for Mexican Americans and Whites, infants of college-educated Black women experience 46 percent higher mortality when compared to infants of White women with a high school degree or less. Analysis of Add Health data show that both low and more highly educated Black women exhibit some substantial socioeconomic, contextual, psychosocial, and health disadvantages across the life course relative to low-educated White and Mexican American women. Overall, the findings suggest that recent focus on the health plight of low-educated Whites, while important and real, should not detract attention from the disadvantaged health prospects of African Americans of all educational levels.

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 Presented in Session 59. Causes of Neonatal, Infant, and Child Mortality