Race and Preterm Births: A Protective Effect of the Military?

Jennifer H. Lundquist, University of Massachusetts
Irma T. Elo, University of Pennsylvania
Wanda Barfield, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Zhun Xu, University of Massachusetts

The continuing black-white preterm birth gap reflects pervasive race inequality that is still present in 21st-century American life. This paper identifies a unique control group, Non-Hispanic blacks serving in the U.S. military, to re-examine the role of racial inequality in preterm birth outcomes. We look at the military as a rare environment where racial marginalization is considerably lessened to understand how social environment can mitigate something as critical as infant well being. Using the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) data, we examine how the structural conditions of military service impact births among non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks compared to their civilian counterparts. We find that the probability of an early preterm birth (before 32 weeks) is cut in half for black women associated with the U.S. military, when compared to civilian black women. There appears to be no such lessened protective effect of the military service for white women.

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Presented in Session 93: Race, Gender and Health Outcomes