In the United States, there is a disturbing disparity between black and white infant mortality rates. In 2016, the likelihood that a black infant would die of causes attributable to perinatal events was more than 230% higher than the likelihood a white infant would.
Unsurprisingly, the disparity between black and white infant mortality rates in the US is not a new phenomenon: in the 19th century, W. E. B. Du Bois studied the racial disparity in infant mortality rates. At that time, the black infant mortality rate was 340 per 1,000 live births, while the white infant mortality rate was 217 per 1,000.
What may be slightly more surprising is that the disparity in mortality rates is present within the demographic of infants born to two college-educated parents. Put plainly, even black infants born to two college-educated parents fare worse than similarly situated white infants.
In a 1992 study, researchers used the National Linked Birth and Infant Death Files for 1983 through 1985 to calculate infant mortality rates for children born to two college-educated parents. The population in the study consisted of 865,128 white infants and 42,230 black infants.
The researchers found that, in this population, the infant mortality rate was 10.2 per 1,000 live births for black infants and 5.4 per 1,000 live births for white infants.
Low birth weight infants drove the disparity: the rate of low birth weight was more than twice as high among blacks (7 percent) as among whites (3 percent). Meanwhile, the researchers found that the mortality rates for black and white infants was equal among those infants who were not low birth weight infants.
The researchers appropriately noted that “[t]he excess rate of low birth weight among black infants and the excess deaths of black infants due to perinatal causes raise concern about the health of black college-educated women and the perinatal care they receive.”
When black women receive substandard healthcare from physicians or other healthcare personnel, it’s a serious problem. When standard medical care does not adequately address the needs of black women, it’s a serious problem. When the psychological toll of being black and a woman in America results in physiological risks, it’s a serious problem.
What can be done to improve things?
One thing we can and should do is to hold our lawmakers–especially when they come from blue states–accountable. For example, there should be a steep political price for behaving as the Governor of Rhode Island has behaved recently.
Governor Gina Raimondo has (1) bashed proposals to expand Medicare to cover everyone, (2) approved health insurance companies’ steep premium increases, during the pandemic, and (3) jumped at the chance to help lobbyists by shielding nursing homes from coronavirus-related lawsuits. In short, she has supported policies that are harmful to the health of black women.
Miraculously, a few days ago, there was speculation that she would receive the nomination to be president-elect Biden’s secretary of Health and Human Services! Ultimately, she did not get the nomination. Those of us who care about the health of black infants and black women may fantasize, dream, hope that it was a healthcare litmus test that doomed Governor Raimondo’s chances.
 Infant mortality is the death of an infant before his or her first birthday. The infant mortality rate is the number of infant deaths for every 1,000 live births.
 However, the researchers pointed out, “[i]n the general population, on the other hand, black infants with normal birth weights have almost twice the mortality rate of their white counterparts.