• birth certificate;
  • home birth;
  • out-of-hospital birth;
  • race and ethnic differences


Background:  After a gradual decline from 1990 to 2004, the percentage of births occurring at home in the United States increased by 5 percent in 2005 and that increase was sustained in 2006. The purpose of the study was to analyze trends and characteristics in home births in United States by race and ethnicity from 1990 to 2006.

Methods:  U.S. birth certificate data on home births were analyzed and compared with hospital births for a variety of demographic and medical characteristics.

Results:  From 1990 to 2006, both the number and percentage of home births increased for non-Hispanic white women, but declined for all other race and ethnic groups. In 2006, non-Hispanic white women were three to four times more likely to have a home birth than women of other race and ethnic groups. Home births were more likely than hospital births to occur to older, married women with singleton pregnancies and several previous children. For non-Hispanic white women, fewer home births than hospital births were born preterm, whereas for other race and ethnic groups a higher percentage of home births than hospital births were born preterm. For non-Hispanic white women, two-thirds of home births were delivered by midwives. In contrast, for other race and ethnic groups, most home births were delivered by either physicians or “other” attendants, suggesting that a higher proportion of these births may be unplanned home births because of emergency situations.

Conclusions:  Differences in the risk profile of home births by race and ethnicity are consistent with previous research, suggesting that, compared with non-Hispanic white women, a larger proportion of non-Hispanic black and Hispanic home births represent unplanned, emergency situations. (BIRTH 38:1 March 2011)