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Black women highly exposed to structural racism report more interpersonal racism

Black women who live with high exposure to structural racism experience higher percentages of racial discrimination within and across situational domains, such as at school, from the police or in the courts, or while getting medical care. Such high levels of racism may have negative impacts on maternal health outcomes.

Key Findings

The objective of this study was to examine the ways Black women's exposure to structural racism and self-reported experiences of racial discrimination are related.
Researchers measured income and race extremes to capture women’s exposure to structural racism at the zip code level.
About 93% of all women reported experiencing racism in at least one “situational domain,” such as at school, work or in a medical setting—a higher proportion than in previous studies.
However, higher percentages of study participants who lived in the most deprived neighborhoods reported experiencing racial discrimination in many of these domains.
Black women who lived in the most deprived neighborhoods were more likely to report experiencing racial discrimination in three or more settings, compared with those who lived in the least deprived neighborhoods.

Study Design

Researchers recruited 42 women who self-identified as Black, were aged 18 to 44 years, lived or worked in Oakland, and who were currently pregnant or had given birth within the last six weeks. The women, who lived in 22 distinct zip codes within Oakland, were administered a survey via a secure electronic data collection program, in addition to paper and pencil options for those who preferred them.

"Data from this study support the need to locally monitor and investigate the social determinants of health outcomes, such as structural racism. Local governments should be held accountable to distribute and track distribution of resources to increase equitable living neighborhoods for Black women."


Given that previous studies have shown that Black women living in deprived neighborhoods were more likely to have a preterm birth or experience an infant death in comparison to those living in the most privileged neighborhoods, women in this study may be at higher risk for adverse birth outcomes due to high exposures to both interpersonal and structural racism.

This study, Exposures to structural racism and racial discrimination among pregnant and early post-partum Black women living in Oakland, California, can be found in Stress and Health.