Ethnicity and Newborn Outcomes: The Case of African American Women

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Although previous studies have confirmed the relationship between socioeconomic status, ethnicity, education, and occupation on birth outcomes, less is known about the relationship of providers influence or hospital characteristics on birth outcomes for minority women. It is not well understood whether hospital or physician characteristics exert an equal or greater affect compared with maternal sociodemographic factors, particularly for Black childbearing women known to be at particular risk for adverse birth outcomes.


This retrospective descriptive study sought to determine whether variation in neonatal birth outcomes for Black women was attributable to hospital characteristics, physician influence, or patient sociodemographics.


Fixed and random effects were conducted to empirically determine the relative importance of hospital, physician, and patient characteristics (partitioning the variation of differences in birth outcome to each component) using a large administrative dataset.


Considerable variability existed among hospitals over and above hospital ownership or number of hospital beds.


Ethnicity was a statistically significant predictor of adverse outcomes, as was the number of prenatal visits and maternal education. There is a significant relationship between adverse newborn outcomes and ethnicity after controlling for hospital and physician characteristics.

Clinical Relevance:

Ongoing birth disparities in African American childbearing women are a significant public policy issue with important research and clinical implications. This research adds to nursing knowledge by helping eliminate some factors previously thought to have contributed to the high incidence of perinatal complications for African American women and their newborns.

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