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Studies Examine Disparities In Women's Birth Patterns

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Researchers in two new studies have tried to shed light on why black women are twice as likely as white women to give birth to babies that will die before their first birthday.

The reports, published in the Sept. 17 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, look at two phenomena that appear more frequently in black babies than white babies and have been linked with higher infant-mortality rates: low-birth weight and premature birth.

Factor Seen Insuffficient The first study found that high teen-pregnancy rates and lower socioeconomic standing do not adequately account for the higher incidence of low-weight black babies.

The study, which compared the birth records of nearly 2.5 million babies born to black and white women, found that even when socioeconomic factors were accounted for, black women were more likely than white women to give birth to underweight babies.

The study found that the greatest disparity in birth patterns was be4tween black and white women in low-risk groups who were married and college-educated. Black women fitting this description were three times more likely than their white counterparts to give birth to an underweight baby.

The second study, which looked at premature birth rates, concludes that socioeconomic factors, when combined with medical factors, help explain the disparity between the birth patterns of black and white women.

In a related analysis, researchers for a child-health organization have found that progress has slowed in the national effort to reduce the infant-mortality rate. The study, conducted by the Food Research and Action Center, a Washington-based advocacy group, found that the cities with the highest infant-mortality rates were Washington, Detroit, and Atlanta.

Copies of "Poor Infants, Poor Chances," are available for $10, plus $1.50 for postage and handling, from frac, 1319 F Street, N.W., #500, Washington, D.C. 20004.

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