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Race/Ethnicity, Nativity, and Infant Mortality in the United States


Hummer, Robert A.; Biegler, Monique; Turk, Peter B. De; Forbes, Douglas; Frisbie, W. Parker; Hong, Ying; & Pullum, Starling G. (1999). Race/Ethnicity, Nativity, and Infant Mortality in the United States. Social Forces, 77(3), 1083-1117.


The overall purpose of this article is to examine population differences in the risk of infant mortality by race/ethnicity, with special attention given to the influence of nativity. Data are taken from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) linked birth/infant death files for 1989-91. These files cover virtually the entire nation, provide highly reliable data for relatively small racial/ethnic subpopulations, and have recently been updated to include new variables of interest. Results show that there is wide variation in the risk of infant death across racial/ethnic groups, with infants born to black women suffering the highest risks and infants of Japanese women experiencing the lowest risks. It is also clear that nativity has a crucial impact on racial/ethnic differentials in infant mortality. In fact, the favorable infant survival rates of many racial/ethnic groups are largely attributable to a high percentage of births to immigrant women, who are characterized by overall lower infant mortality than native-born women. Both the racial/ethnic differentials in mortality and the effect of nativity, in turn, are due to several sets of factors, the importance of which varies by race/ethnicity. Models of infant mortality estimated separately by race/ethnicity also revealed that the direction of effects for mortality risk factors tends to be the same across groups, although the magnitudes vary. Thus, it is reasonable to assume that general efforts to lower infant mortality will have a beneficial impact for all groups.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Social Forces


Hummer, Robert A.
Biegler, Monique
Turk, Peter B. De
Forbes, Douglas
Frisbie, W. Parker
Hong, Ying
Pullum, Starling G.