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Differential relationship between state-level minimum wage and infant mortality risk among US infants born to white and black mothers

Abstract

Background Compared to other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, US infant mortality rates (IMRs) are particularly high. These differences are partially driven by racial disparities, with non-Hispanic black having IMRs that are twice those of non-Hispanic white. Income inequality (the gap between rich and poor) is associated with infant mortality. One proposed way to decrease income inequality (and possibly to improve birth outcomes) is to increase the minimum wage. We aimed to elucidate the relationship between state-level minimum wage and infant mortality risk using individual-level and state-level data. We also determined whether observed associations were heterogeneous across racial groups.

Methods Data were from US Vital Statistics 2010 Cohort Linked Birth and Infant Death records and the 2010 US Bureau of Labor Statistics. We fit multilevel logistic models to test whether state minimum wage was associated with infant mortality. Minimum wage was standardised using the z-transformation and was dichotomised (high vs low) at the 75th percentile. Analyses were stratified by mother's race (non-Hispanic black vs non-Hispanic white).

Results High minimum wage (adjusted OR (AOR)=0.93, 95% CI 0.83 to 1.03) was associated with decreased odds of infant mortality but was not statistically significant. High minimum wage was significantly associated with reduced infant mortality among non-Hispanic black infants (AOR=0.80, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.94) but not among non-Hispanic white infants (AOR=1.04, 95% CI 0.92 to 1.17).

Conclusions Increasing the minimum wage might be beneficial to infant health, especially among non-Hispanic black infants, and thus might decrease the racial disparity in infant mortality.

  • infant mortality
  • social epidemiology
  • inequalities
  • health inequalities
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