Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

, Volume 6, Issue 6, pp 1095–1106 | Cite as

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

  • Roman PabayoEmail author
  • Amy Ehntholt
  • Kia Davis
  • Sze Y. Liu
  • Peter Muennig
  • Daniel M. Cook



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.


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.


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.


Educational and judicial indicators of structural racism were associated with infant mortality among blacks. Decreasing structural racism could prevent black infant deaths.


Structural racism Infant mortality Racial disparities Birth cohort 



This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health Research, National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities 1R15MD010223-01. Roman Pabayo is supported by the Canada Research Chairs Program.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roman Pabayo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Amy Ehntholt
    • 2
    • 3
  • Kia Davis
    • 4
  • Sze Y. Liu
    • 5
  • Peter Muennig
    • 6
  • Daniel M. Cook
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Alberta School of Public HealthEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.School of Community Health SciencesUniversity of NevadaRenoUSA
  3. 3.Department of Social and Behavioral SciencesHarvard TH Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  4. 4.Division of Public Health SciencesWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  5. 5.Weill Cornell Medical CollegeNew York CityUSA
  6. 6.Mailman School of Public HealthColumbia UniversityNew York CityUSA

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