Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Race and Infant Mortality

A recent news article at Science Daily on a recent study reports that “Disparities in Infant Mortality Not Related to Race.”

On reading the article, I conclude from what’s reported that the study actually indicates that disparities in infant mortality in the U.S. are very much related to race – as a social construction with social and biological consequences – though not related to what race is often thought to be, i.e. infant mortality rates are not so much linked with genetic traits thought typical and distinct of populations with African or European descent.

The following passages are from the article and should provide a sense of the overall argument and shape of it:

They compared birth weights of three groups of women: African American, whites and Africans who had moved to Illinois. Most African-American women are of 70 to 75 percent African descent.

"If there were such a thing as a (pre-term birth) gene, you would expect the African women to have the lowest birth weights," David said. "But the African and white women were virtually identical," with significantly higher birth weights than the African-American women, he said.

The researchers did a similar analysis of births to black Caribbean women immigrants to the United States and found they gave birth to infants hundreds of grams heavier than the babies of U.S.-born black women.

One reason African-American mothers have babies who weigh less at birth is that they are at greater risk for such conditions as high blood pressure and preeclampsia.

Also, minority women are subject to stress caused by perceived racial discrimination, the researchers said.

David and Collins spoke with black women who had babies with normal weights at birth, comparing them with black women whose babies' birth weight was very low -- under three pounds.

They asked the mothers if they had ever been treated unfairly because of their race when looking for a job, in an educational setting or in other situations.

Those who felt discriminated against had a twofold increase in low birth weights. And for those who experienced discrimination in three "domains," the increase was nearly threefold.

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