Why Are Our Babies Dying? Pregnancy, Birth, and Death in America
Syracuse, New York, in the late 1980s led U.S. cities in African American infant deaths. Even today, in this "all American city," infants of color die more than two times as often as white babies. Infant mortality is too often addressed as if it were an isolated problem, rather than part of a systemic and repeating pattern of embedded racism and structural violence. The clearing of whole neighborhoods during urban renewal, coupled with the collapse of industry, brought unintended consequences. Dilapidated rental housing, abandoned houses, and empty lots provide the conditions for lead poisoning, gonorrhea, and illicit drug use. Inadequate education, unemployment, and racially biased arrest and sentencing underpin the epidemic of African American male incarceration. Inmate fathers cannot provide financial support and only limited emotional support during collect calls from jail or prison. Supermarkets fled the inner city, where corner stores sell cigarettes, malt liquor, lottery tickets, and drug paraphernalia in place of healthy food. The stories and the data in this book show that low birth weight, premature birth, and infant death are a part of life patterns resulting from systemic discrimination increasing risk over a lifetime and, in some cases, reaching the next generation.
“Lane takes the reader on a journey from risk factor to statistic to personal experience to policy and back again. … Students practicing in various disciplines and those who hold interests in multiple aspects of research and practice would benefit from reading this book. Lane’s work cannot be easily categorized; it is case study, ethnography, policy analysis, and qualitative research—all cogently assembled into a very readable book.”
—Health & Social Work
“This pathbreaking study explains why more infants die in America than in many third-world countries. Malnutrition, lead poisoning, violence, drugs, incarceration, HIV, and poverty wrack many postindustrial U.S. cities, leaving tiny victims in their wake. Lane artfully weaves together public health statistics, qualitative research, and policy critique to examine why deep-seated racism and discrimination lead to infant death. Yet, the book leaves room for hope, and should be required reading for all those working to end health disparities in the U.S.”
—Marcia C. Inhorn, University of Michigan
“Why are our babies dying? The short answer, according to Sandy Lane, is structural violence, the societal exclusion of vulnerable citizens. This bold and unique book takes an unflinching look at the story of Syracuse to help us understand how and why this is the case. A must-read for anyone concerned with babies, cities, justice, and the future of America.”
—Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Columbia University