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Public Health


Nicoletta Alexander


Living in counties where manufacturers release environmental toxins, such as those tracked by the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) toxic release inventory (TRI), may elevate infants' health risks. Because infant mortality (IM) is a strong indicator of a population's health status, it is an important topic in public health research. The purpose of this research was to examine the potential relationships between IM, community size, and factors related to mothers' SES in counties where more than 25,000 pounds of annual toxic air releases occur. The dependent variable was IM per 1,000 live births in a given community for each of the 3 years included in this analysis (1987, 1995, and 2004). The independent variables included county size and factors related to mother's SES (education, age, ethnicity, and marital status). The theoretical framework consisted of Mosley and Chen's framework for exploring child survival. Archival, publicly available data were pulled from (a) the EPAs TRI data, and (b) linked birth and infant death files from the National Center for Health Statistics. The researcher followed a quantitative, retrospective cross-sectional design and conducted 3 linear regression models to test the research questions. Results indicated that an increase in community size was significantly associated with an increase in IM. Regarding the relationships between IM and the 4 different maternal characteristics (education, age, ethnicity, and marital status) included in the analysis, findings were mixed for the 3 years examined. Despite these unexpected findings, the overall results from this investigation, when considered alongside findings from previous research on IM, indicate that policy changes and interventions are needed to reduce socioeconomic disparities in IM, and to save the lives of more infants.

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