Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s claim that having a Black physician “more than doubles the likelihood that a Black newborn will survive” has been met with scrutiny from legal experts, who say the claim is mathematically impossible and based on a flawed study.
The claim was made in Jackson’s dissenting opinion to the Supreme Court’s recent decision to end affirmative action in college admissions. In the opinion, Jackson argued that diversity “saves lives” and is essential for “marginalized communities.” She cited the study as evidence that having a Black physician can significantly improve the chances of survival for Black newborns.
However, the study has been criticized by experts who say it does not support Jackson’s claim. The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Florida, found that Black newborns who were treated by Black physicians had a mortality rate that was 0.13% to 0.2% lower than Black newborns who were treated by White physicians. While this difference is statistically significant, it is not nearly as large as the “more than double” increase that Jackson claimed.
In addition, the study’s authors have said that their findings should not be interpreted as a guarantee that having a Black physician will save a Black newborn’s life. They noted that there are many other factors that can affect a newborn’s health, such as the mother’s health, the quality of the hospital, and the availability of resources.
The criticism of Jackson’s claim has led to calls for her to clarify her statement. In a letter to the Supreme Court, the law firm that filed the amicus brief on which Jackson relied said that the statement “warrants clarification” and that it “regrets any confusion” that it may have caused. The firm said that a more accurate summary of the study’s findings would be that “having a Black physician reduces by more than half the likelihood of death for Black newborns as compared to White newborns.”
It remains to be seen whether Jackson will address the criticism of her claim. However, the controversy has highlighted the importance of careful research and analysis when making claims about the impact of race on health outcomes.