Cumulative Inequality and Race/Ethnic Disparities in Low Birth Weight: Differences by Early Life Socioeconomic Status

Laura L. Freeman, Rice University

This study investigates whether differences in black, white, and Hispanics mothers’ childhood socioeconomic status (SES) account for disparities in infants’ risk of low birthweight (LBW) using three-generation linked data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and the NLSY Young Adult sample, which contain information on the mothers and grandmothers of 2,332 singleton infants. Controlling for mothers’ adult factors, I assess the unique association between childhood low SES and LBW probability. I also examine differences in LBW probability between black, white, and Hispanic women from similar childhood socioeconomic backgrounds. Overall, results indicate that childhood socioeconomic factors do not account for race/ethnic disparities in LBW. Rather, childhood low SES increases the probability of LBW for whites but is not significantly predictive of LBW for blacks or Hispanics. In fact, pairwise comparisons indicate the greatest LBW disparities exist between black and white women who experienced the least socioeconomic disadvantage during childhood.

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Presented in Session 177: Maternal, Infant, and Child Health and Mortality