National Institute on Aging

Black Mothers With Advanced Degrees Have a Higher Rate of Preterm and Low-Weight Babies

A new study led by Kierra S. Barnett, a research scientist at the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, finds that African American mothers with graduates degrees had higher rates of preterm birth or had more low-weight babies than Black mothers with lower levels of education and White mothers with similar levels of education.

The study, presented recently at the Pediatric Academic Societies in Washington, D.C., found that for Black mothers with a master’s degree or a doctorate, more than 10 percent had a preterm birth. Only 6 percent of White mothers with a similar level of education had a preterm birth. Nearly 10 percent of Black mothers with a graduate degree had low birth-weight babies compared to 3.6 percent of White mothers with a master’s or doctoral degree.

“As we continue to grapple with the Black maternal health crisis, the results of this study highlight an overlooked inequity that we must pay attention to,” said Dr. Barnett. “There is a clear disconnect between the benefits we assume education should have on our health and what educated Black mothers are experiencing in our society.”

Dr. Barnett is a graduate of the University of Illinois, where she majored in community health. She holds a master of public health degree and a Ph.D. in public health from Ohio State University.


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