Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Why Are So Many Black Babies Dying in Kansas?

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Editorial: Why Are So Many Black Babies Dying in Kansas?

Article excerpt

According to a recent report from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the infant mortality rate in our state is 5.9 per 1,000 live births -- a proportion that jumps to 15.2 per 1,000 for black babies. The report also found that socioeconomic factors are correlated with infant deaths in Kansas. Although 32.4 percent of live births were funded by Medicaid between 2012 and 2016, this group accounted for 44.5 percent of infant deaths. This correlation exists across the country, as does the gross racial disparity in infant mortality.

While KDHE spokesman Jerry Kratochvil says the agency isn't sure what's causing this disparity, it isn't difficult to come up with a general explanation. The high rate of infant deaths in the black community is a symptom of deeply ingrained racial inequality that still persists at all levels in Kansas and around the country.

For example, in a 2016 study published in Labour Economics, Michigan State University researchers Steven J. Haider, Todd Elder and John Goddeeris found that "infant mortality gaps for our six racial/ethnic groups exhibit many commonalities, and these commonalities suggest a prominent role for socio-economic differences." One of the most pronounced commonalities they identify is a lack of education among nonwhite mothers.

When you take a look at ACT scores in Kansas, you'll see huge racial disparities that demonstrate how far some students have fallen behind by high school and how difficult it will be for them to succeed in college.

Only 6 percent of black students reached all four of the college readiness benchmarks on the ACT in 2017 -- something 36 percent of white students were able to do. This is one of the factors that has led to the substantial gap between the proportions of white and black Americans who hold college degrees: 36 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Now consider the fact that the average median salary for college graduates is around $60,000 per year and less than $36,000 per year for Americans who only have a high school diploma. …

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