Louise Roth

Director of Graduate Studies

Social Sciences 438



Louise Roth is a sociologist who studies how organizations and laws influence justice and quality of life for women. Her research uses mixed methods to analyze the effects of organizational and legal structures on gender inequality in employment and on maternity care practices.

Her book, The Business of Birth: Malpractice and Maternity Care in the United States (NYU Press, 2021), analyzes the effects of regulate medical malpractice and reproductive rights laws on maternity care practices in the United States. In The Business of Birth, and related articles in Social Problems and the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Roth uses quantitative data on the effects of state-level laws and qualitative data from in-depth interviews with obstetricians, midwives, malpractice attorneys, hospital administrators, and health insurance executives to understand the relationship between the legal environment and birth outcomes like early induction and cesarean delivery. The research was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF 0958190). Dr. Roth has also conducted a cross-national survey of Maternity Support Workers (doulas, childbirth educators, and labor and delivery nurses) in Canada and the United States, and published this research in the Journal of Obstetric Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN), Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care, and Research in the Sociology of Healthcare.

Louise Roth's research on the effects of law and organizations on gender inequality in employment include her first book, Selling Women Short: Gender and Money on Wall Street (Princeton University Press, 2006), seven journal articles on gender in finance, and an article on the effects of performance bonuses on gender inequality in medicine (Social Currents, 2016). Her primary focus in this research has been the systematically unequal effects of pay systems that rely on performance evaluations and are supposed to reward workers based on merit.

Dr. Roth’s current research, with Dr. Theresa Morris at Texas A&M University, focuses on the impact of state laws on birth justice. Drs. Roth and Morris have conducted over 40 interviews with attorneys and activists involved in legal cases defending midwifery and community birth, suing providers for violations of informed consent and bodily integrity, and defending women who have been prosecuted for adverse pregnancy outcomes. With Ph.D. candidate Jennifer Hyunkyung Lee, she has published an article on trends in state-level reproductive health laws. The research team is also analyzing the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and reproductive health laws on birth outcomes like preterm birth and low birthweight.