The evolution of infant mortality inequality in the United States, 1960–2016

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Science Advances  17 Jul 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 29, eaba5908
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba5908


What is the relationship between infant mortality and poverty in the United States and how has it changed over time? We address this question by analyzing county-level data between 1960 and 2016. Our estimates suggest that level differences in mortality rates between the poorest and least poor counties decreased meaningfully between 1960 and 2000. Nearly three-quarters of the decrease occurred between 1960 and 1980, coincident with the introduction of antipoverty programs and improvements in medical care for infants. We estimate that declining inequality accounts for 18% of the national reduction in infant mortality between 1960 and 2000. However, we also find that level differences between the poorest and least poor counties remained constant between 2000 and 2016, suggesting an important role for policies that improve the health of infants in poor areas.

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