Editor’s Choice Pick: “The relationship between income inequality and maternal mortality for black and white mothers”

Read about one of our Editor’s Choice picks and the student author at the Journal of Emerging Investigators.

Meet the Student Author

LéNia Felix graduated from The Neighborhood Academy in May 2022 and is currently attending The University of San Francisco’s School of Nursing. LéNia had dreams of becoming a labor and delivery nurse after discovering the high maternal mortality rate for Black women in the United States. As a Black woman herself, she believes that this issue is important and chose to research the possible causes for this high mortality rate. It was then that she discovered that the unequal pay that Black women receive and the income inequality that Black people face in general may play a huge role in why many Black women were dying during labor.

With this in mind, she and her teacher Jason Scott investigated the relationship between income inequality and maternal mortality for black women in comparison to White women. LéNia hopes that further precautions are taken when it comes to Black women before, during, and after birth. She also hopes that one day, as a Black labor and delivery nurse, she can help Black women, and POC women in general, have positive experiences as they bring new life into the world.

Learn More About LéNia’s Research
In the United States, Black mothers die during pregnancy or childbirth at a much higher rate compared to White mothers. This inequity of part of a historical trend of Black women experiencing system racism and healthcare inequality. LéNia and her mentor wanted to investigate whether the higher maternal mortality rate among Black women was tied to income inequality.

LéNia began by determining the U.S. maternal mortality rate among Black and White mothers between 2003 and 2019. In agreement with other studies, she found that the Black maternal mortality rate was significantly higher than White maternal mortality rate across all years.

LéNia next examined the relationship between maternal mortality rate and income inequality. To do this, she used a mathematical formula to calculate the Gini coefficient, which is a numerical representation of income inequality.

When looking at the state level, LéNia did not find a significant relationship between comparing each state’s Gini coefficient with its Black and White maternal mortality rates. When she then looked on a national level over 17 years using race-specific Gini coefficients, LéNia found that income inequality was tied to maternal mortality for White, but not Black, mothers.

LéNia hypothesizes that this result may be due to income inequality being only a part of the overall racial inequity faced by Black mothers. Her results shed light on the important issue of Black maternal mortality, and LéNia believes that more action is needed to address the racial disparity experienced by Black mothers.

Check out the full manuscript to learn more about LéNia’s research and why her manuscript was selected as an Editor’s Choice manuscript.

The material on this page was prepared by Clayton Bishop, JEI Head Copy Editor. LéNia Felix provided the photo and personal biography which was edited lightly for clarity.