Increasing Racial Disparity in Infant Mortality: Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Other Causes

Parker Frisbie, University of Texas at Austin
Seung-Eun Song, University of Texas at Austin

Dramatic innovations in perinatal care have led to a substantial decline in rates of infant death, but they have also fueled historic alterations in the structure of infant mortality. Among the most disturbing of recent trends is a significant increase in relative black-white disparity in risk of infant death. Based on data from linked cohort files for 1989-90 and 1995-98, our results are consistent with the view that the potential for a widening of the racial gap is high because advances in health care have occurred in a continuing context of social inequality. This conclusion is especially well-illustrated in the case of respiratory distress syndrome by comparisons drawn from time periods before and after the widespread use of pulmonary surfactant therapy, but the conclusion may be valid for other causes of infant mortality.

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Presented in Session 139: Race, Health, and Mortality II