American Renaissance published an article the other day titled “Is ‘Racism’ Killing Black People?” and, for the most part, I largely agree with it. However, there are a few faults in it that I need to address.
First, off, as the article rightly noted, it’s not only perceived ‘racism’ that is the cause for these health disparities, but stress from other blacks as well. Gregory Hood (the author of the AmRen article) cites a new study showing that blacks who move out of the ‘hood’ see a subsequent decrease in BP (Kershaw et al, 2017). They followed 2,290 people 974 were men and 1,306 were women. This is data collected from the CARDIA study which has helped us to understand racial disparities in all types of different health outcomes. Blacks who lived in high segregation neighborhoods had higher levels of SBP (systolic blood pressure), and saw a decrease in their SBP when they moved to less segregated neighborhoods. The authors conclude that “policies that reduce segregation may have meaningful health benefits.” What kind of policies will ‘reduce segregation’? Most races/ethnic groups group together in an area, so I don’t see how this would happen.
In regards to the argument on black maternal mortality and ‘racism’, I think it’s much more nuanced. Black women are 2 to 6 times more likely to die giving birth than white women; while the leading causes of maternal death in black women is pregnancy-induced hypertension, and embolism (Chang et al, 2003), though reasons for the mortality rate are not explainable at present (Flanders-Stepans, 2002). Further, in regards to preeclampasia, women who get pregnant at younger ages are more likely to acquire the disease while pregnant, and blacks and other non-whites are more likely to get pregnant at younger ages than whites (Main et al, 2015).
However, there are ways to reduce maternal mortality in black women. In a RCT undertaken between the years of 1990-2011 in Memphis, Tennesee, black women were followed with their live-in children and placed into one of four groups: “treatment 1 (transportation for prenatal care [n = 166]), treatment 2 (transportation plus developmental screening for infants and toddlers [n = 514]), treatment 3 (transportation plus prenatal/postpartum home visiting [n = 230]), and treatment 4 (transportation, screening, and prenatal, postpartum, and infant/toddler home visiting [n = 228])” (Olds et al, 2014). They conclude that pre- and post-natal care greatly reduces maternal/infant mortality in black women, “living in highly disadvantaged settings.”
Further, the racial disparity in post-term neonates is largely driven by “CHD among term infants with US-born mothers is driven predominately by the postneonatal survival disadvantage of African-American infants” (Collins et al, 2017). Though, as can be seen in the study by Olds et al (2014), pre- and post-natal care can greatly reduce both infant and maternal mortality.
Stress can also be measured in pregnant women by measuring the level of blood cortisol (Gillespie et al, 2017). They show that, independent of adulthood stress, stress during childhood may shape birth timing, with cortisol being the biological mediator. This may be an explanation for what Gregory Hood notes. He states in his article that there has to be an explanation for why black women birth earlier, and while I am sympathetic to biological models ala Rushton (1997), Gillespie et al (2017) drive a hard argument that stress during childhood using cortisol as a biological mediator makes a lot of sense.
There are a few studies that attest to pre- and post-natal care having a large effect on the morality of black women, and that having the carers being black women seems to have a positive effect (Guerra-Reyes and Hamilton, 2017). They conclude that “Recognition, support, and increasing the number of African-American midwives and birth assistants is vital in tackling health inequalities.” In regards to infant mortality rate (IMR), 18 states will achieve racial equality by 2050 if current trends from 1999-2013 hold (Joedrecka et al, 2017).
Now for the main reason I decided to write this: the ‘Hispanic’ paradox. This paradox is that for the past twenty years, ‘Hispanics’ with low SES have similar or better health outcomes than whites (Franzini, Ribble, and Keddie, 2001). However, more recent analyses show that the ‘Hispanic’ paradox does not exist, mostly due to methodological problems and migrant selectivity (Crimmins et al, 2007; Teruya and Bazargan-Hezeji, 2013) and was not noticed in Chile either (Cabiesies, Tunstall, and Pickett, 2013). There is no migrant selectivity in regards to smoking, however (Fenelon, 2013, 2016).
Studies which advocate the validity of the Immigrant Paradox are countered by those which report specific, negative physical and mental health outcomes, and higher rates of substance use, especially among immigrant adolescents. Findings may also be compromised by fundamental methodological concerns such as migrant health selectivity, and approaches that consider only selectively healthy groups. Moreover, the Immigrant Paradox’s benefits do not appear to extend evenly and consistently to all races, ethnicities and subgroups. Similarly, the Hispanic Paradox does not protect consistently across all Latino ethnicities, age groups and genders, with Puerto Ricans and Cubans in particular found to enjoy fewer health advantages.
This is good evidence that the people who migrate to America are healthier, and that the symptoms of low SES show in their children, but not in them because they are a self-selected population. There is no ‘Hispanic’ paradox (Smith and Bradshaw, 2006; Schoenthaler, 2016). Even a new meta-analysis on this ‘paradox’ states “Immigrant children and youth suffer from an immigrant mortality disadvantage” (Shor, Roelfs, and Vamg, 2017).
Lastly, Gregory Hood brings up stress and suicide, stating that if blacks were really more stressed than whites then blacks would have higher rates of suicide, but some studies show that whites have a higher rate of suicidal ideation, while others do not show this (Perez-Rodriguez et al, 2010). Though, as Balis and Postolache (2010) show, studies show that while there is conflicting evidence in regards to racial/ethnic differences in suicide, whites still attempt it the most. However, suicide for young black Americans is on the rise. Ahmedani et al (2016) show that “Nearly 27% of White individuals made a mental health visit versus less than 20% of Asian, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and Black individuals in this period. Within 4 weeks, all visits and mental health visits remained most common for White individuals (67.3% and 47.4%, respectively) and least common among Asian individuals (52.8% and 31.9%, respectively). Within 52-weeks, more than 90% made any visit. Alaskan Native/Native American (81.5%) and White individuals (79.5%) made mental health visits 10–25% more often than other groups.” However, at least in Fulton County, Georgia, black suicide decedents were less likely to report depression than white suicide decedents (Abe et al, 2008).
However, for whites, as noted in this 1982 New York Times article, suicidal feelings “reflects feelings of loneliness and hopelessness, which can be greater factors as one grows older; for instance, after loved ones have died” whereas for older white men, loss of status may be a cause, which would not be that prevalent in lower SES ethnicities. The article seems to implicate loss of status as a main cause for higher rates of suicide in white Americans, and states that as other, lower SES ethnies attain higher status, that suicide rates would rise for them as well.
Another cause could be prescription drugs, for instance in the Northeast which has been hit hard by the opiate/heroin crisis which leads to more white deaths. Robert Putnam puts this on “the links between poverty, hopelessness and health” and states that the suicide rate has declined for two groups, black males and males over the age of 75. Further, “divorce, economic strain, or political repression are often characterized as suicide risks.” Cheng et al (2010) show that “A high level of identification with one’s ethnic group was associated with lower rates of suicide attempts.” So, it seems that if one keeps their status, and has a high level of identification with their ethnic group, whites would then be protected against suicidal ideation. Nonmetropolitan counties also have higher rates of suicide than metropolitan counties (Ivey-Stephenson et al, 2017). People who livee in rural counties are less likely to seek help for mental problems (Carpenter-Song and Snell-Rood, 2016). Whites are also more likely to live in rural areas. This could explain higher rates of suicide in whites, along with loss of status, depression and drug use.
In conclusion, the ‘Hispanic’ paradox doesn’t exist; whites attempt/commit suicide more due to loss of status and since most whites live in rural areas, they do not seek help for their mental health problems which then leads to suicide. In regards to black maternal mortality/infant mortality rates, if they have midwives present during and after the birth, mortality rates have decreased. If these trends continue, there will be racial equality in terms of maternal/infant mortality in 18 states. The AmRen article was good and well written, but there were a few huge flaws. The author assumed that since the ‘Hispanic paradox’ exists, that this should have one disregard the effects of, say, stress on blood pressure in black Americans, as I have discussed in the past. But since the ‘Hispanic’ paradox does not exist, then you cannot say that (perceived) discrimination and ‘racism’ is not a cause for higher rates of mortality in blacks compared to whites.