Race Gap in Reproductive Health and Birth Outcomes

A Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report showed a large gap in outcomes between African American and white women in almost every aspect of reproductive health, including higher rates of preterm delivery, infant mortality, and maternal deaths among African American women. The report suggests that race is the strongest predictor of disparities in birth outcomes.

The report also found that unexpectedly the race gap in birth outcomes does not narrow with educational attainment or age; or in other words, unlike white women, African American women do not experience better reproductive health and birth outcomes with increased age or socioeconomic status. Arline Geronimus, a professor at the University of Michigan School of Public Health believes this is due the “cumulative impact of constantly dealing with disadvantages” a phenomenon she titled “weathering.” She suggests weathering may lead “birth outcomes for black women to deteriorate with maternal age.”

Susan Cohen, author of the report “Abortion and the Women of Color: The Bigger Picture” proposes that stressors and life events that are more common in low-income and minority women also lead to higher rates of abortion in African American women. According to the US government statistics collected by the CDC, African American women are five times more likely than white women across all income levels to seek an abortion.


National Partnership for Women and Families 7/12/2011; Mercury News 7/11/2011; NPR 7/8/2011

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