Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Daisy Reyes, David Embrick, Marysol Asencio

Field of Study



Master of Arts

Open Access

Open Access


Black women in the United States die in pregnancy and childbirth at alarmingly high rates. According to The Center for Disease Control, black women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. The black-white racial disparity is even greater in New York City, and The NYC Department of Health has found that black mothers in NYC still face higher rates of harm even when accounting for risk factors like educational attainment, obesity, and neighborhood poverty level. Drawing on 18 interviews with NYC-based Obstetricians, Labor and Delivery Nurses, and Midwives, this study examines how the providers who care for women in pregnancy and in childbirth make sense of and define the problem of racial disparities in maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. Building on the Theory of Racial Ignorance and the concept of Colorblind Racism, this study finds that women’s healthcare providers victim-blame and claim ignorance while offering racialized explanations for racial differences in outcomes. It is clear that if educational attainment and socioeconomic status do not explain this disparity, it is acutely a racial disparity, and therefore should be of great interest to sociologists and other social scientists who seek to understand how race can deeply affect people’s health.

Major Advisor

Daisy Reyes