We examined the contribution of social disadvantage to the black-white disparity in preterm birth. Analyses included linked vital and hospital discharge records from 127,358 black and 615,721 white singleton California births from 2007-11. Odds ratios (OR) were estimated by 4 logistic regression models for 2 outcomes: early (<32 wks) and moderate (32-36 wks) spontaneous preterm birth (ePTB, mPTB), stratified by 2 race-ethnicity groups (blacks and whites). We then conducted a potential impact analysis. The OR for less than high school education (vs. college degree) was 1.8 (95% confidence interval 1.6, 2.1) for ePTB among whites but smaller for the other 3 outcome groups (ORs 1.3-1.4). For all 4 groups, higher census tract poverty was associated with increased odds (ORs 1.03-1.05 per 9% change in poverty). Associations were less noteworthy for the other variables (payer, and tract percent black and Gini index of income inequality). Setting 3 factors (education, poverty, payer) to 'favorable' values was associated with lower predicted probability of ePTB (25% lower among blacks, 31% among whites) but a 9% higher disparity, compared to probabilities based on observed values; for mPTB, respective percentages were 28% and 13% lower probability, and 17% lower disparity. Results suggest that social determinants contribute to preterm delivery and its disparities, and that future studies should focus on ePTB and more specific factors related to social circumstances.