Mother's Education and Infant Mortality Rates in the United States: Why Are There Black-White Differences?

Jacob Adetunji, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

Do similar levels of education translate to equivalent child survival benefits across racial/ethnic groups within the same society? To address this question, this paper used data from the 1995 Cohort Linked Births/Infant Deaths to investigate the variations that exist in maternal education effects on infant mortality rates in the United States. The analysis shows that, in general, infant mortality rates decreased as mother's level of education increases, irrespective of race. However, while Black infants were 1.7 times as likely to die as White infants if their mothers had 9-12 years of schooling, the ratio was 2.7 times for infants whose mothers had 16+ years of schooling. Further multivariate analysis showed that controlling for the effects of birth-weight differences reduced the Black-White odds ratio from 2.7 to 1.32. Controlling for the effects of three other variables further reduced the odds ratio to 1.25. The policy implications of these results are discussed.

Presented in Session 36: Economic Status and Health Over the Life Course