Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


W.M. Keck Science Department

Reader 1

Rachel Racicot

Reader 2

Elise Ferree

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

2019 Jassmin DelRio


Introduction: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in 1987 was 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births compared to 18.0 deaths in 2015. This increase in MMR has occurred disproportionately. The same report demonstrates that black women are more than 3 times as likely to die of pregnancy-related causes than non-Hispanic white women. The present study explores how structural differences in the economy, education system, and public policy affect the health of black, pregnant women in the U.S.

Methods: This research examined epidemiological studies of maternal mortality in the U.S. Data from previous studies was used to investigate the relationship between the racial disparity in MMR and societal, economic, and political factors that contribute to said relationship. Data from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the U.S. Census Bureau, the United Nations (UN), and the Claremont Colleges Library network was examined.

Results: Studies show that between 2008-2012, black women were found to have the greatest prevalence of preexisting conditions prior to pregnancy. Furthermore, white women are more likely to have their labor induced than black, Asian, and Hispanic women. The increased prevalence of preexisting conditions among black women can be greatly attributed to factors stemming from institutional racism. These factors include less access to health care, education, and equal economic opportunities.

Conclusion: Implicit bias among practicing health professionals must be addressed via multiethnic education. It is necessary to create an equally safe environment for women of all races. Additionally, health care providers should take on the responsibility of educating pregnant women about any possible preexisting chronic conditions to properly care for themselves. Prenatal health education must be made readily available and accessible to all demographics. Reports demonstrate that the creation of standardized, disease-specific procedures that target chronic conditions may reduce the U.S. MMR. For black women to overcome the current rates of comorbidity, U.S. public policy must change in a way that decreases the disparity in the socioeconomic status of all Americans.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.