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Now this does interest


The stillbirth rate of black babies in England and Wales is almost twice that of white babies, with families from mixed and multiple ethnic groups registering the highest increase in stillbirths, figures show.

The death rate of black babies before or during delivery continues to be the highest, with 6.9 stillbirths per 1,000 births registered in 2021, compared with 3.6 per 1,000 white babies, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The numbers, for the US, are different – different measurement techniques and definitions – but the gap is much the same, perhaps a little larger.

OK, this isn’t good, dead babies ain’t good. But why?

We know what the explanation offered is going to be, racism, innit?

We could go a little further and test for poverty. Are poor white babies – or, rather, babies to poor white people – just as likely to die? If so then it’s socioeconomics, innit.

Or, well, is there something genetic there? For example, we know that white women (ie, Hispanic too, of European descent not just modern “white”) find it near impossible to bring a pregnancy to term up on the altiplano of S America. Indios do rather better. Same up in Tibet – those Han Chinese aren’t going to colonise the high plateau over the generations, simply cannot reproduce.

Is there something about the mix of genes and environment that makes that ethnic difference happen in the rich countries?

We’d really like to test whether the same stillbirths rate etc happens in rich and majority black countries. Because that would tell us something about whether it’s relative wealth – the socioeconomic – but we’re rather short of examples of that sort of nation that we could use.

What does also strike as odd is that mixed rate being so high. Hybrid vigour is a real thing.

So, who knows all about this then?

22 thoughts on “Now this does interest”

  1. Question not answered: is there a difference in the stage of gestation mothers present for antenatal care and therefore screening for diabetes, high blood pressure, normal growrh and other conditions affecting the health of the newborn?

  2. Perhaps it’s just those cross-breeds who can’t handle the different genetic info being weeded out. This does not of course mean that hybrid vigour couldn’t also apply where they can handle it.

    I’d bet though that children born to white parents would have similar death rates in West Africa.

  3. Sickle-cell condition affects stillbirth rates. Don’t know if it’s enough to account for all the discrepancy.

  4. Possibly more consequential than longstanding statistical medical differences between biological subgroups of humans (if they’re longstanding, they may not be tractable, and let’s be honest: the Guardian’s only interest here is waythithm, not dead babies) are sudden medical anomalies apparently affecting multiple groups:

    The overall stillbirth rate had been declining since 2007 but increased in 2021 compared with the previous year for every category except the Asian group.

    What caused the stillbirth rate to suddenly increase in 2021 and why aren’t doctors and midwives screaming bloody murder about it?

    We know why the Guardian buried the dead baby lede, but why did the NHS?

    Anyway, I hope none of you are vaxxed, and if you are vaxxed, I hope you didn’t take the boosters, chaps. And if you did get vaxxed and boosted, you might want to decline any further invitations to inject experimental mRNA treatments into your veins. The excess deaths and heart problems and whatnot we’re seeing now aren’t natural.

    I’m not saying it’s the vaxx, but I think we might be seeing adverts in the future opening with “Have you, or any of your loved ones, been affected by mRNA vaccines?”.

  5. My guess is that the black families are poorer, and poverty itself is a risk factor.

    The difficulty is that we don’t have enough data. The absolute number of stillbirths is low, especially if you want to delve into subgroups. I’d imagine Indian Asians fare well, since every other doctor is of Indian heritage. Pakistanis probably don’t do so well. If there are differences between Caribbean and West African blacks, then perhaps it’s culture rather than race. Lots of unknowns.

  6. I did notice that in the opening line they talk about the stillbirth rate of one group and the increase in that rate of another. They might not be trying to mislead, but a casual reader might not appreciate the difference.

    Assuming that blacks are poorer than whites something like this would be expected. And if the demographics have changed significantly in recent years due to immigration (especially among the younger crowd who do tend to be the ones getting pregnant) mixed and muti-ethnic showing the most change might also be expected. The “refugees” who’ve been showing recently up do come from a less prosperous background.

  7. Another interesting number might be the number of miscarriages experienced per person by demographic group. But the sample size would have to be enormous to even out confounding factors.

  8. The nhs is increasingly over-stretched constantly redefining the term “breaking point . Does anyone other than a guardian race-hustler seriously believe that this is the area to pour ever-scarcer resources into.

  9. As I recall, sickle cell confers a degree of protection against the effects of malaria. So, in its original environment, sickle cell confers a net benefit.

  10. I wonder how the still birth rates compare between brown eyed women and auburn haired women, or between women called Gladys and women called Madge?

    In other words, pick any two cohorts with a different characteristic and then hunt around and find some difference that occurs between the groups. Then get a research grant to study it further and where possible link it either to racism or climate change – or both. Poverty is a bit old hat, but inequality is a useful standby.


    What is a drug? A drug is a substance you give to a rat that produces a scientific paper.

  11. I assume ‘black’ in the UK also includes Pakistani descent, so (in many cases) the product of generations of cousin marriages, with all that entails. I hear that physicians, wanting to study “one in a million” genetic defects, often make a beeline for Bradford.

  12. Our host: OK, this isn’t good, dead babies ain’t good. But why?

    In the US we we have an organization dedicated to making dead babies, especially black ones, called Planned Parenthood. It has been remarkably effective. Is this factored into the statistics?

  13. Ex wife was a public health analyst, picked up this stat many years ago for a UK area with a high black (African rather than Caribbean) population. Correlated strongly with very low attendance at antenatal check ups. I.e problems with pregnancies were not picked up and culminated with high stillbirth and low birth weight babies.

  14. A simple question: were the mothers’ Vitamin D levels checked and if not why not?

    That is Mr Vara’s point, made sciencey.

  15. Bugger! I know the answer. If Bad Things correlate positively with low Vit D levels that means our governments murdered lots of people when Covid popped up by failing to tell ’em to top up. We can’t be ‘avin’ that ‘ere then, can we?

  16. Reading the article, the thing that jumped out was the real lack of granularity. The term “black” is utterly meaningless. Are the mothers Afro Caribbean, West African, East African ( highlanders or lowlanders ) etc. Are the Asians Indians or Pakistanis ? Punjabi or Bengali ? And so on.

    I think ( but am not sure ) that VitD is only a problem for initial arrivals and that subsequent generations adapt to the environment.

    I think Obligato has a point and that a lot of this is failure to adapt and will eventually be bred out in subsequent generations. Conversely the point about blood relations marrying in certain enriched areas is also valid and such practises will make the situation much worse.

  17. I think that Tim has pointed out at the ASI blog that national pay scales for the NHS kill people.
    The area where the NHS pay rate buys you the least amount of housing is London. That’s where the blacks live, well many of them.
    Ah, this has been checked against USA, so scrub that thought. And we’d expect a regional difference to show up if it was true.
    Early presentation for ante-natal care seems to make a difference. Is there a cultural thing where you don’t admit to being pregnant for as long as possible, while other cultures want to share their ultrasound scans on social media as soon as they possibly can.

  18. Found the regional data for 2020 from here

    Still Birth Rate
    SOUTH EAST 3.0
    SOUTH WEST 3.2
    NORTH EAST 3.5
    EAST 3.6
    YORKS & HUMBER 3.7
    NORTH WEST 4.1
    LONDON 4.3
    WALES 4.4
    Infant Mortality Rate
    SOUTH WEST 2.9
    EAST 2.9
    SOUTH EAST 3.0
    NORTH EAST 3.1
    LONDON 3.3
    YORKS & HUMBER 3.9
    NORTH WEST 4.0
    WALES 4.1

    Difficult to see how Wales being one of the worst performers being down to discrimination based on race.

  19. Inbreeding in Asian populations is well known to produce this effect.

    Black mothers are usually obese.


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