Date of Graduation

Spring 5-15-2020

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Urban and Public Affairs


College of Arts and Sciences


Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good

First Advisor

Dr. Diana Negrin

Second Advisor

Dr. Meera Nosek


This semester-long research project uncovers how racial biases demonstrated in the reproductive health field, and specifically before, during, and after childbirth, affect the rate of maternal mortality and morbidity for African American mothers in the United States. The rate of maternal mortality for this specific racial group is four times greater as compared to Caucasian women and this discrepancy will be investigated and analyzed throughout this capstone thesis. Interviews were conducted with key figures in the obstetric and gynecological field as well as with Black mothers themselves in an effort to uncover what factors, aside from medical anomalies, are leading to mortality of African American women at much higher rates than other racial groups. Studies suggest that implicit racial bias present between care providers and their patients can lead to solvable yet unaddressed complications which then result in unfavorable outcomes for postpartum Black women. This capstone project will incorporate these research studies and articles into an extensive literature review that include three main frameworks: racial bias, healthcare access and socioeconomic background. Racial bias will be the main framework that informs the other two frames as race in America cannot be separated from economic or healthcare justice. Finally, I offer recommendations that incorporate micro-level guidance and suggestions for interactions between patients and practitioners. I also zoom out on a macro-level and investigate policies that can be implemented on a more widespread scale from midwife and doula protocols to target racial and implicit bias in the larger structure of healthcare.