Even Rich Black Families Face Worse Birth Outcomes

Findings suggest structural issues are involved, experts say
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2023 1:55 PM CST
Even Rich Black Families Face Worse Birth Outcomes

Data have long shown that Black mothers and their children suffer the worst birth outcomes in the US. Now a large study has shown that parental income is a reliable predictor, as well—but there's an exception, the New York Times reports. Wealthy mothers are the most likely to survive a year after childbirth, unless they're Black. A study of 2 million births in California by the National Bureau of Economic Research discovered that the wealthiest Black mothers and their newborns are twice as likely to die as the richest white mothers and their babies.

One study author said that indicates the difference in outcomes isn't just attributable to wealth gaps. "It suggests it's much more structural," said Maya Rossin-Slater, an economist at Stanford University. Hispanic and Asian mothers and newborns also fared worse across the board, in birthweight, ensuing problems such as eclampsia or sepsis, and mortality rates. Researchers lacked enough data to compare Native Americans and other groups; past studies have found birth outcomes among Native Americans are nearly as alarming as those of Black people.

Experts said it's clear that Black mothers and their infants are at a disadvantage even before the birth. "As a Black infant, you're starting off with worse health, even those born into these wealthy families," said another author, Sarah Miller of the University of Michigan. They cited examples such as the stress of facing racism; greater air pollution in Black communities; and less access to paid family leave as factors; all have been shown to affect the health of mothers and babies, per the Times. "There are many ways systemic racism makes its way into the well-being of a pregnant or birthing person," said one doctor. (More infant mortality stories.)

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