Civil Rights, the War on Poverty, and Black-White Convergence in Infant Mortality in the Rural South and Mississippi
36 Pages Posted: 7 Feb 2007
Date Written: December 31, 2006
For the last sixty years, African-Americans have been 75% more likely to die during infancy as whites. From the mid-1960s to the early 1970s, however, this racial gap narrowed substantially. We argue that the elimination of widespread racial segregation in Southern hospitals during this period played a causal role in this improvement. Our analysis indicates that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which mandated desegregation in institutions receiving federal funds, enabled 5,000 to 7,000 additional black infants to survive infancy from 1965-1975 and at least 25,000 infants from 1965-2002. We estimate that by themselves these infant mortality benefits generated a welfare gain of more than $7 billion (2005$) for 1965-1975 and more than $27 billion for 1965-2002. These findings indicate that the benefits of the 1960s Civil Rights legislation extended beyond the labor marker and were substantially larger than recognized previously.
Keywords: desegregation, hospital access, Jim Crow, racial discrimination, Civil Rights Act
JEL Classification: I38, I3, N3, N4, and J1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation