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A regional collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The pandemic induced more home births around the Mountain West. What does race have to do with it?

Baby after home birth
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Baby after home birth

News brief

A Pew Research Center analysis found that during the first year of the pandemic home births increased by 19% nationally.

About 46,000 people had home births in 2020. A handful of the states with the most home births are in the Mountain West, and the region also includes two states that saw some of the country's largest increases from 2019 to 2020.

Idaho had the largest share of home births in the country at 3.2%. Utah and Montana ranked 4th with a rate of 2.6%. Juliana Horowitz, a collaborator on Pew's research, says these states already had high numbers of home births pre-pandemic.

The researchers also identified trends in the education levels and races of those having home births.

“Some of the states that have larger shares of home births than the national average also have particularly large white populations,” said Horowitz. “And one of the things that we found is that white women are more likely than women in other racial and ethnic groups to give birth at home.”

About 76% of home births in the country were to a white parent, but Black and Hispanic families saw the largest increases, at 32% and 28%, respectively.

Horowitz says the increase in Hispanic home births likely influenced the significant jump in New Mexico — 28%. Arizona was the only other Mountain West state with a larger increase at 32%. Both ranked among the largest increases in the country.

Nevada had the smallest increase from 2019 to 2020 at 4%.

People with less than a high school education were overrepresented in home births. Twelve percent of all birthing people had less than a high school education, yet they represented 20% of home births.

The researchers would next like to understand why these numbers increased the way they did. Was it personal preference or was it due to healthcare access?

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.