Low Birth Weight

During the period from 1989 to 1996, among women with 13 or more years of education, African American women were twice as likely as white women to give birth to low-birth-weight infants (infants weighing less than 2,500 grams [5.5 pounds]) (11.9 versus 5.5 percent). This occurred even though African American women are less likely than white women to smoke during pregnancy, which is considered an important factor in causing low birth weight. Similarly, the percentage of low-birth-weight infants was higher among American Indian women (6.0 percent), Asian or Pacific Islander women (6.8 percent), and Hispanic women (6.0 percent) than white women with similar levels of educational attainment (National Center for Health Statistics, 1998b).

Infant Mortality

From 1989 to 1991 African American women experienced an infant mortality rate over two and a half times higher than that experienced by white women with the same levels of education (13.7 versus 5.1 per 1,000 births). The infant mortality rates among American Indian women and Hispanic women with similar levels of education were 8.1 and 5.8 per 1,000 births, respectively (National Center for Health Statistics, 1998b).

Death Rates

African Americans experience higher mortality rates than whites even in areas with equivalent levels of urbanization. In large, core metropolitan areas, the mortality rate among African Americans between 1993 and 1995 was 810.5 deaths per 100,000 population, compared with a rate of 491.9 per 100,000 among the white population. This disparity in mortality is also pronounced in other geographic areas: the mortality rates among African Americans in rural and urban, nonmetropolitan areas were 737.1 and 761.9 per 100,000 population, respectively, compared with rates of 503.9 and 499.4 per 100,000 population, respectively, among whites (National Center for Health Statistics, 1998b).


In general, African American males experience cancer approximately 15 percent more frequently than white males, with incidence rates of 560 and 469 per 100,000 population, respectively. The pattern of cancer incidence rates among males in other racial and ethnic groups is more varied, but disparities are exhibited in specific cancer sites. For example, colon and rectal cancers are more common among Alaskan Native men (79.7 per 100,000 population) and

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