Structural Racism and Odds for Infant Mortality Among Infants Born in the United States 2010

Roman Pabayo, Amy Ehntholt, Kia Davis, Sze Y. Liu, Peter Muennig, Daniel M. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Objectives: While ecological studies indicate that high levels of structural racism within US states are associated with elevated infant mortality rates, studies using individual-level data are needed. To determine whether indicators of structural racism are associated with the individual odds for infant mortality among white and black infants in the US. Methods: We used data on 2,163,096 white and 590,081 black infants from the 2010 US Cohort Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Files. Structural racism indicators were ratios of relative proportions of blacks to whites for these domains: electoral (registered to vote and voted; state legislature representation), employment (civilian labor force; employed; in management; with a bachelor’s degree), and justice system (sentenced to death; incarcerated). Multilevel logistic regression was used to determine whether structural racism indicators were risk factors of infant mortality. Results: Compared to the lowest tertile ratio of relative proportions of blacks to whites with a bachelor’s degree or higher—indicative of low structural racism—black infants, but not whites, in states with moderate (OR = 1.12, 95% CI = 0.94, 1.32) and high tertiles (OR = 1.25, 95% CI = 1.03, 1.51) had higher odds of infant mortality. Conclusions: Educational and judicial indicators of structural racism were associated with infant mortality among blacks. Decreasing structural racism could prevent black infant deaths.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1095-1106
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019


  • Birth cohort
  • Infant mortality
  • Racial disparities
  • Structural racism


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