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Am J Epidemiol. 1992 Jun 15;135(12):1382-93.

Differences in cause-specific infant mortality among Chinese, Japanese, and white Americans.

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Department of Maternal and Child Health, School of Hygiene and Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.


Although black-white differences in infant mortality have received much attention, information is limited about mortality differentials among Asian Americans. This study investigated racial differences in infant mortality in a sample of 21,288 Chinese, 11,882 Japanese, and 65,818 white resident singleton livebirths obtained from the National Center for Health Statistics 1983 and 1984 linked birth/infant death files. The crude infant mortality rates were 8.03, 6.56, and 8.46 per 1,000 livebirths for Chinese, Japanese, and white births, respectively. Cause-specific mortality varied considerably among the three racial groups. While the Japanese had lower rates of infant deaths and deaths from perinatal conditions for firstborn infants, they had higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome, as did Chinese females. The results of a logistic regression analysis indicate that the racial differences in total and cause-specific mortality persist when adjustment is made for demographic factors, use of prenatal care, infant sex, and birth weight. The effect of these latter variables on infant mortality varied by causes of death. The relations between infant mortality and variables such as marital status, maternal education, and birth interval appear indirect, operating partially through birth weight. While birth weight was the single strongest determinant of infant mortality, its relative importance varied by cause of death. The study findings suggest that policy decisions surrounding racial differences in infant mortality should not only be considered in light of specific races, but also with regard to cause-specific mortality. Moreover, additional research is needed to understand the cultural, biological, and behavioral factors that give rise to the racial differences.

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