A new study from The New York Times shows how Black families, regardless of their financial condition, are disproportionately impacted by the dangers of childbirth.
The groundbreaking new analysis of two million births indicates that rich Black women and their babies are twice as likely to die in the year after childbirth compared to their white counterparts.
The study from the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that babies born to the wealthiest Black women, or those in the top 10% of earners, tended to have higher risk factors than those delivered to more affluent white women. Black babies also had more risks than those born to the poorest white mothers — an indication that Black mothers and their newborns suffer harm before childbirth, regardless of socioeconomic background.
“It suggests that the well-documented Black-white gap in infant and maternal health that’s been discussed a lot in recent years is not just explained by differences in economic circumstances,” said economist Maya Rossin-Slater, an author of the study, according to The Times. “It suggests it’s much more structural.”
Research has consistently shown that Black mothers and babies have the worst childbirth outcomes in America. Pregnancy-related deaths among Black women are three times more probable than among white women, and Black newborns are three times likelier to die than whites.
The Kellogg Foundation and others have produced similar findings, noting that despite ongoing improvements in medical treatment, there are still significant racial disparities in maternal and newborn health in the United States.
For example, the foundation said, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, greater impediments to abortion for people of color may make the already significant gaps in maternal and newborn health even more pronounced.
Still, this “landmark” study is noteworthy since it is the first to demonstrate how Black families, regardless of their financial condition, are disproportionately impacted by the dangers of childbirth, according to The Times.
In every health measure the researchers looked at, including whether babies were born early or underweight, whether mothers had birth-related health issues like eclampsia or sepsis, and whether the babies and mothers died, Black mothers and babies fared worse than those who were Hispanic, Asian or white.
“It’s not race, it’s racism,” said economist Tiffany L. Green from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, The Times reported. “The data are quite clear that this isn’t about biology. This is about the environments where we live, where we work, where we play, where we sleep.”