This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Is Infant Mortality on the Rise in North Carolina?

My son, Greg Weeks, forwarded to me a news report from North Carolina indicating that the infant mortality rate (IMR) in that state rose in 2012 compared to the previous year:
North Carolina health officials say infant mortality in the state increased for the second year in a row in 2012.
The Department of Health and Human Services released figures this week showing about 7.4 babies out of every 1,000 live births died before their first birthday in the state in 2012.
The state had a record low infant mortality rate of 7 in 2010, and it increased to 7.2 out of every 1,000 births in 2011.
The report finds babies born to African-American mothers are now twice as likely to die than babies born to white mothers.
Naturally, I immediately went to the website of the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics to look at the numbers for myself. Now, to be sure, the rate did rise, and maybe the rise was a real one, but in fact, the difference between the rate of 7.0 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2010 and 7.4 in 2012 is not statistically significant. In other words, just by chance alone in a state with about 120,000 births each year, we could expect the rate to fluctuate that much without there being any real underlying difference. 

More striking to me in the numbers was the evidence that, once again, we find that Hispanics have a lower infant mortality rates than do non-Hispanic whites. The single year rate is not statistically significant, but over the span from 2000 through 2012 the IMR for Hispanics was 5.4 per thousand compared to 6.0 for non-Hispanic whites and that is statistically significant. Put another way, were it not for Latino migration to North Carolina, the infant mortality rate would be higher than it currently is.

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