Black women in poor neighborhoods more likely to experience interpersonal racism

Black women in the United States continue to face disparities in birth outcomes. They are 2-3 times more likely to experience infant mortality and have infants born preterm or at low birthweight compared to white women. These disparities persist even after accounting for other factors like income, age and health insurance status. Given that preterm birth and low birthweight carry significant consequences, it’s essential to understand the factors linked to these disparities.

Chronic stressors like racism are strongly associated with preterm birth and low birthweight. While there is a growing body of evidence looking at the impacts of both interpersonal and structural racism, the complexities of how structural racism is related to the interpersonal racism that Black women experience in their daily lives are unknown. New research led by Brittany Chambers looks and pregnant and early postpartum Black women’s exposure to structural racism and self-reported experience of racial discrimination and how those two are related.

The vast majority of Black women in Oakland they surveyed reported experiencing racial discrimination in at least one type of situation across their lifetime, a higher number than recorded in previous studies. They found that Black women who lived in the most deprived neighborhoods were more likely to report experiencing racial discrimination in school settings, when getting medical care, getting service at a restaurant, on the street or in a public setting, and from the police or courts. This is the first study to examine the relationship between structural racism, measured by the extreme of racially and economically deprived neighborhoods, and interpersonal racism, measured by experiences of racial discrimination, among Black pregnant and postpartum women.

These findings show that structural racism impacts the treatment Black women receive as they navigate within institutions such as medical, education, and judicial settings. Institutions need to develop systems of accountability to reduce racism by standardizing services, resources, and care.