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Disproportionate sterilization of Latinos under California's eugenic sterilization program, 1920-1945

Publication Abstract

Novak, Nicole, Natalie Lira, Kate O'Connor, Sioban D. Harlow, and Sharon Kardia. Forthcoming. "Disproportionate sterilization of Latinos under California's eugenic sterilization program, 1920-1945." American Journal of Public Health.

Objectives. To compare population-based sterilization rates between Latinas/os and non-Latinas/os sterilized under California's eugenics law. Methods. We used data from 17 362 forms recommending institutionalized patients for sterilization between 1920 and 1945. We abstracted patient gender, age, and institution of residence into a data set. We extracted data on institution populations from US Census microdata from 1920, 1930, and 1940 and interpolated between census years. We used Spanish surnames to identify Latinas/os in the absence of data on race/ethnicity. We used Poisson regression with a random effect for each patient's institution of residence to estimate incidence rate ratios (IRRs) and compare sterilization rates between Latinas/os and non-Latinas/os, stratifying on gender and adjusting for differences in age and year of sterilization. Results. Latino men were more likely to be sterilized than were non-Latino men (IRR = 1.23; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.15, 1.31), and Latina women experienced an even more disproportionate risk of sterilization relative to non-Latinas (IRR = 1.59; 95% CI = 1.48, 1.70). Conclusions. Eugenic sterilization laws were disproportionately applied to Latina/o patients, particularly Latina women and girls. Understanding historical injustices in public health can inform contemporary public health practice.

DOI:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304369 (Full Text)

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