Contested racial identity and the health of women and their infants

Nadia N. Abuelezam, Adolfo G. Cuevas, Sandro Galea, Summer Sherburne Hawkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contested racial identity— self-identified race not matching socially-assigned race—may be an indication of experiences with racism. We aimed to understand the relationship between contested racial identity and women's health behaviors, health outcomes, and infant health outcomes. We used 2012–2015 Massachusetts Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System data on 5735 women linked with infants' birth certificates. We conducted regression analyses to examine associations between contested racial identity with pregnancy and infant health outcomes and further sub-analyses among women who had experienced a contested racial identity. A total of 901 (15.7%) women reported a contested racial identity. When compared to those who did not, women who had a contested racial identity had lower odds of initiating prenatal care in the first trimester (AOR: 0.76, 95% CI: 0.62, 0.95) and higher odds of smoking (AOR: 1.70, 95% CI: 1.32, 2.19). Among women who had experienced a contested racial identity, those who were socially-assigned as White had decreased odds of having a low birth weight baby (AOR: 0.52, 95% CI: 0.28, 0.99) when compared to those socially-assigned as non-White. Contested racial identity is common; it affects the behaviors that women engage in and the outcomes they experience postpartum. Further, we found that there is a potential benefit to a White social ascription. This work adds to growing evidence of the impact of racism on maternal and infant health in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106965
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • Contested racial identity
  • Infant health
  • Maternal health
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Racism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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