Honors Program Theses


Open Access Honors Program Thesis

First Advisor

Disa Cornish


Infants--Mortality--Social aspects; African American infants--Mortality--Social aspects;


The infant mortality rate (IMR) is an incredibly important indicator of the overall health of a nation. Because the IMR is so closely related with factors such as quality and accessibility of healthcare and socioeconomic conditions, it is helpful in evaluating a nation’s success. The United States (US) has one of the highest infant mortality rates among countries with a similar degree of economic development (those belonging to the OECD). In 2013, the IMR was 5.96 deaths per 1,000 live births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC (Mathews, MacDorman, & Thoma, 2015). Furthermore, this rate differs greatly across races in the United States, resulting in an undeniable health disparity. The lowest infant mortality rate in the country is that of Cubans (3.02 infant deaths per 1,000 live births), while the rate of White Americans is 5.06 (Mathews et al., 2015). More than three times higher than Cubans and twice as high as White Americans, the IMR for Black Americans is 11.11 infant deaths per 1,000 live births (Mathews et al., 2015). When such a large disparity exists between the various racial groups of one country, questions can be raised about the ways in which the US social structure impact citizens to varying degrees and whether the history of institutionalized racism has shaped that structure.

The purpose of this thesis is to identify sociocultural risk factors for disparities in IMR in the US and explore whether institutionalized racism contributes to those risk factors. An extensive body of research has documented the relationship between stress during pregnancy and negative birth outcomes such as preterm birth, a leading cause of infant mortality. In addition, it is clear that US disparities of IMR exist based on race. Literature will be examined to determine whether and how experiences related to racism at each level of the Social Ecological Model contribute to this health disparity. A better understanding of the possible ways institutionalized racism affects infant mortality and our nation’s health will help communities develop health promotion efforts to end this disparity.

Year of Submission



School of Kinesiology, Allied Health, and Human Services

University Honors Designation

A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the designation University Honors

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (33 pages)



File Format