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Racial inequality in the annual risk of Tuberculosis infection in the United States, 1910–1933


Tuberculosis (TB) mortality rates in the USA fell rapidly from 1910 to 1933. However, during this period, racial disparities in TB mortality in the nation's expanding cities grew. Because of long delays between infection and disease, TB mortality is a poor indicator of short-term changes in transmission. We estimated the annual risk of TB infection (ARTI) in 11 large US cities to understand whether rising inequality in mortality reflected rising inequality in ARTI using city-level TB mortality data compiled by the US Department of Commerce from 1910 to 1933. We estimated ARTI for African-Americans and whites using pediatric extrapulmonary TB mortality data for African-Americans and whites in our panel of cities. We also estimated age-adjusted pulmonary TB mortality rates for these cities. We find that the ratio of ARTI for African-Americans vs. whites increased from 2·1 (95% CI = 1·7, 2·4) in 1910 to 4·2 (95% CI = 3·4, 5·2) in 1933. This change mirrored the increasing inequality in age-adjusted pulmonary TB mortality during this period. These findings may reflect the combined effects of migration, inequality in access to care, increasing population density, and racial residential segregation in northern cities during this period.

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