Groundbreaking Study Shows Babies of Wealthy Black Women Die at Higher Rates Than Those of Poor White Women

A groundbreaking new analysis of two million births indicates that wealthy black women and their babies are twice as likely to die within a year of giving birth compared to their white counterparts.

Nearly all babies born to two million first-time mothers between 2007 and 2016 in California, the state with the highest annual birth rate, are included in the study, published this month, according to the New York Times. last by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Babies born to the wealthiest black women, or those in the top 10%, tended to have higher risk factors than those to wealthier white women. Black babies were also at greater risk than those born to poorer white mothers — an indication that black mothers and their newborns experience pre-delivery harm, regardless of socioeconomic background.

A new study has found that wealthy black women and their babies still suffer disproportionate harm and risk during childbirth compared to their white counterparts. (Photo credit: Adobe Stock)

“This suggests that the well-documented black-white gap in child and maternal health that has been much discussed in recent years cannot be explained solely by differences in economic circumstances,” said economist Maya Rossin-Slater. , author of the study, according to The Times. “That suggests it’s much more structural.”

Research has consistently shown that black mothers and babies have the worst birth outcomes in America. Pregnancy-related deaths in black women are three times more likely than in white women, and black newborns are three times more likely to die than whites.

The Kellogg Foundation and others have produced similar findings, noting that despite continued improvements in medical treatment, there are still significant racial disparities in maternal and newborn health in the United States.

For example, the foundation said that since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, greater barriers to abortion for people of color could make already wide gaps in maternal and newborn health even more pronounced.

Black women shouldn't have to almost die and go back to work

Yet this “landmark” study is remarkable because it is the first to show how black families, regardless of their financial circumstances, are disproportionately affected by the dangers of childbirth, according to The Times.

An economist who studies racial disparities in health care agreed on the importance of the study. “This is a landmark paper,” said Atheendar Venkataramani of the University of Pennsylvania, “and what makes it really striking is how we leave a group of people far behind.” Venkataramani was not involved in the research.

Babies born in the top 20% of households with the highest incomes are the least healthy, according to the study. They are more likely to have premature labor and low birth weight – two important precursors to early medical problems – because their mothers are more likely to be older and have twins, sometimes due to treatments of fertility.

“As a black baby, you start off with worse health,” University of Michigan health economist Sarah Miller told The Times, “even those born into these wealthy families.”

Miller, Stanford professors Rossin-Slater and Petra Persson; Kate Kennedy-Moulton of Columbia, Laura Wherry of NYU and Gloria Aldana of the US Census Bureau are the authors of the study.

Rich and poor women were equally likely to have high-risk pregnancies, but poor women were three times more likely to die, even in the same facilities. The authors noted that wealthy women’s pregnancies are not only the riskiest but also the most protected.

Attacks on Black Maternal Health Go Far Beyond Roe

This study implies that the US medical system can save the lives of many infants with early health problems, but the means to do so may be beyond the reach of low-income families.

In each measure of health, the researchers looked at, including whether babies were born early or underweight, whether mothers had birth-related health problems like eclampsia or sepsis, and whether babies and mothers died, black mothers and babies fared worse than those who were Hispanic, Asian or white.

“It’s not about race, it’s racism,” said economist Tiffany L. Green of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, The Times reported. “The data clearly shows that it’s not about biology. These are the environments where we live, where we work, where we play, where we sleep.

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Groundbreaking Study Shows Babies of Wealthy Black Women Die at Higher Rates Than Those of Poor White Women

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