Tracing Causes of Infant Mortality

By Thomas Sowell Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 24, 1994 | Go to article overview

Tracing Causes of Infant Mortality


Thomas Sowell Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


With all the things that were once taboo now being talked about on nationwide television, there are other things that we are very squeamish about. One of these is the high infant mortality rate among blacks.

Storm clouds of "racism" charges hang over any discussion of any social problems among blacks. But as Charles Murray, among others, has demonstrated, similar problems occur in Europe where similar policies affect whites. Swedes are about as white as you can get, but their illegitimacy rates are close to those of blacks in the United States. Welfare policies that affect primarily low-income groups affect a far wider portion of the population in Sweden, undermining traditional families there as well.

A new study of infant mortality rates in the District of Columbia by Professor Nicholas Eberstadt of Harvard and the American Enterprise Institute once more demonstrates that problems that plague a particular race at a particular time are not necessarily due to race, as such - or to poverty for that matter.

Washington has the highest rate of infant mortality in the country. Since a majority of its population is black, some will automatically assume that this is due to poverty, race, racism, lack of access to medical care, poor education and all the rest of the familiar litany of the welfare-state liberals.

In reality, other black communities with more poverty, less education and not nearly as much access to medical care have lower infant mortality rates than those in Washington.

The average income of blacks living in the District of Columbia is much higher than the average income of blacks in the country as a whole. Indeed, it is higher than the average income of whites in Utah and Idaho.

Whether measured by physicians or hospital beds available per capita, Washingtonians have more access to medical care than most other people around the country.

Eberstadt has performed a public service by getting away from the usual comparisons of blacks and whites, where all differences end up being attributed to racism, history, poverty or the other usual suspects. His research shows that blacks in Detroit have more than twice as high an unemployment rate as blacks in Washington, higher poverty rates than Washington blacks - and yet the infant mortality rate is lower in Detroit. …

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