Police violence and the health of black infants

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Science Advances  04 Dec 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 12, eaax7894
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax7894


Police use of force is a controversial issue, but the broader consequences and spillover effects are not well understood. This study examines the impact of in utero exposure to police killings of unarmed blacks in the residential environment on black infants’ health. Using a preregistered, quasi-experimental design and data from 3.9 million birth records in California from 2007 to 2016, the findings show that police killings of unarmed blacks substantially decrease the birth weight and gestational age of black infants residing nearby. There is no discernible effect on white and Hispanic infants or for police killings of armed blacks and other race victims, suggesting that the effect reflects stress and anxiety related to perceived injustice and discrimination. Police violence thus has spillover effects on the health of newborn infants that contribute to enduring black-white disparities in infant health and the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage at the earliest stages of life.

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