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MPI Report Examines Black Immigrant Mothers’ Prenatal Behaviors and Birth Outcomes
Press Release
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

MPI Report Examines Black Immigrant Mothers’ Prenatal Behaviors and Birth Outcomes

WASHINGTON— Although most of the research literature finds that foreign-born mothers experience better birth outcomes than their U.S.-born counterparts, the birth experiences of black immigrant mothers have received relatively little attention. In addition, little is known about black immigrants’ prenatal behaviors such as smoking and use of prenatal care.

In Black and Immigrant: Exploring the Effects of Ethnicity and Foreign-Born Status on Infant Health, Virginia Commonwealth University health economist Dr. Tiffany Green compares prenatal behaviors and birth outcomes of black immigrant mothers to those of other immigrants and U.S.-born mothers, using federal vital statistics. The report also analyzes mothers’ rates of smoking and prenatal care use.

Green finds that black immigrant mothers are less likely to give birth to preterm or low-birth-weight infants than U.S.-born black women, yet are more likely to experience these adverse birth outcomes than other groups of immigrant and U.S.-born women. Green also finds that although black immigrant mothers are the least likely of any group, U.S. or foreign-born, to smoke, they also have the lowest rates of first-trimester prenatal-care initiation. However, neither smoking nor prenatal-care initiation can explain why black immigrant mothers experience poorer infant health outcomes than their non-black counterparts.

The report is the latest from the Young Children in Black Immigrant Families research initiative, a project of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. Funded by the Foundation for Child Development, the research initiative aims to examine the well-being and development of children from birth to age 10 with black immigrant parents, connect and expand the field of researchers focused on this population and support scholars pursuing research on these issues. Earlier reports in the initiative analyzed the demographics of immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean living in the United States and those of their children. The earlier reports can be found at: www.migrationpolicy.org/cbi.

Over the next three weeks, MPI will publish three additional reports in the Young Children in Black Immigrant Families series. These reports will examine family circumstances, early childhood outcomes and school readiness for the children of black immigrants, who account for 11 percent of all black children in America. A rapidly growing segment of the U.S. population, these 1.3 million children nonetheless remain largely overlooked by research studies.

The initiative’s research will be collected in an edited volume, Young Children of Black Immigrants in America: Changing Flows, Changing Faces, which will be published by MPI later this fall.

The report issued today is available here.


The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide. MPI provides analysis, development and evaluation of migration and refugee policies at the local, national and international levels. For more on MPI, please visit www.migrationpolicy.org.