It doesn't matter if you're well off financially. It doesn't matter if you have a college education. It doesn't even really matter if you've had adequate health care.
If you are a black woman living in the United States, you are much more likely to have a premature baby than a white mother in the same socioeconomic category.
What is causing this gap?
Dr. James Collins, a physician and researcher from Chicago and an authority on premature births, believes the culprit is racism.
"Racism exists, and racism is a stressor" that decreases the immune system and can trigger pre-term labor, Collins told an audience of medical professionals and community leaders Wednesday.
The event was sponsored by the Berrien County Health Department and Lakeland HealthCare.
Upward mobility for black women does reduce the rate for low-weight births, the leading cause of infant mortality, Collins said.
The rate of infant mortality is higher for poor, black single teenage mothers, especially if the mother was a low birth-weight baby.
If you live in poverty and were a low birth-weight baby "you're pre-programmed to have a low birth-weight baby," Collins said.
The lives of 6,000 black babies could be saved each year if the infant mortality rate for blacks could be lowered to that of whites, Collins said. For those who survive, low birth weight leads to health problems later in life.