Addressing the Racial Disparity in Birth Outcomes: Implications for Maternal Racial Identity on Birthweight


As a widely used marker of health, birthweight has been a persistent racialized disparity with the low birthweight rate of Blacks in Alabama nearly doubling the national average. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of racial identity and acculturation on birthweight in a sample of Black women living in Alabama. Black women (n=72) in West Alabama were surveyed about the birthweight of their first born child. Correlation and multiple linear regression analyses were conducted. Racial identity was the only significant predictor of birthweight. Mothers with a strong racial identity reported having low birthweight babies less often than those who scored lower on racial identity. Further exploration of racial identity revealed self-image as the essential element that predicted birthweight. Birthweight increased 4.2 ounces for each additional degree of self-image. Results also indicated that birthweight decreased as mothers’ age increased, within the widely accepted optimal maternal age range 21 to 35. Results add to the existing body of literature in support of the positive effect racial identity has on health. Findings on age are congruent with the weathering hypothesis, which states that the health of Black women may begin to deteriorate in early adulthood possibly due to the strain of racism.

Burton, W. M., Hernandez-Reif, M., & Lian B. (2017). Addressing the racial disparity in birth outcomes: Implications for maternal racial identity on birthweight. Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice, 10(2), 142-156.