KBJ Makes Mathematically Absurd Claim’ on Black Newborns

KBJ Makes Mathematically Absurd Claim’ on Black Newborns

July 6, 2023

Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson made a “mathematically absurd claim” about black newborns in her dissenting opinion in the affirmative action decision, attorney Ted Frank wrote in a Wednesday Wall Street Journal op-ed.

“It saves lives,” Jackson argued in her dissent. “For marginalized communities in North Carolina, it is critically important that UNC and other area institutions produce highly educated professionals of color. Research shows that Black physicians are more likely to accurately assess Black patients’ pain tolerance and treat them accordingly (including, for example, prescribing them appropriate amounts of pain medication). For high-risk Black newborns, having a Black physician more than doubles the likelihood that the baby will live, and not die.”

Frank responded to the argument in his Journal opinion piece: “A moment’s thought should be enough to realize that this claim is wildly implausible. Imagine if 40% of black newborns died—thousands of dead infants every week. But even so, that’s a 60% survival rate, which is mathematically impossible to double. And the actual survival rate is over 99%.”

“How could Justice Jackson make such an innumerate mistake?” he wrote. Frank added that Jackson’s claim came from a 2020 study, according to a footnote in the dissent, but added that the study didn’t match Jackson’s claim.

“The study makes no such claims. It examines mortality rates in Florida newborns between 1992 and 2015 and shows a 0.13% to 0.2% improvement in survival rates for black newborns with black pediatricians (though no statistically significant improvement for black obstetricians),” he said.

“So we have a Supreme Court justice parroting a mathematically absurd claim coming from an interested party’s mischaracterization of a flawed study,” Frank said. “Her opinion then urges ‘all of us’ to ‘do what evidence and experts tell us is required to level the playing field and march forward together.’ Instead we should watch where we’re going.”

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