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The effects of racial density and income incongruity on pregnancy outcomes


  • Pickett, Kate E.
  • Collins, James Jr
  • Masi, Christopher M.
  • Wilkinson, Richard G.


This study shows that living in a better area reduces the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes but, among African-American women, living in an area in which they are in a racial minority may increase the risk. Using the 1991 cohort of single infants born to African-American women in Chicago, we measured census tract socioeconomic status and defined women as having "positive income incongruity" if they lived in wealthier tracts than the average African-American woman of comparable education and marital status. We examined whether or not the effect of positive income incongruity differed according to whether or not African-American women lived in predominantly black, or mixed tracts. Among the women living in predominantly black census tracts, positive income incongruity was associated with a lower risk of low birth weight (odds ratio (OR)=0.91) and preterm delivery (OR=0.83). These effects were modest, but statistically significant for gestation (p-value=0.01). In contrast, among the women living in mixed tracts positive income incongruity was not associated with low birth weight (OR=1.04) or preterm delivery (OR=1.11). In mixed areas the expected benefits of positive income incongruity are completely offset by the racial density effect, suggesting that the positive effects of a better socioeconomic context may be countered for minority women by the adverse effects of racism or racial stigma.

Suggested Citation

  • Pickett, Kate E. & Collins, James Jr & Masi, Christopher M. & Wilkinson, Richard G., 2005. "The effects of racial density and income incongruity on pregnancy outcomes," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 60(10), pages 2229-2238, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:60:y:2005:i:10:p:2229-2238

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:socmed:v:191:y:2017:i:c:p:237-250 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Messer, Lynne C. & Vinikoor, Lisa C. & Laraia, Barbara A. & Kaufman, Jay S. & Eyster, Janet & Holzman, Claudia & Culhane, Jennifer & Elo, Irma & Burke, Jessica G. & O'Campo, Patricia, 2008. "Socioeconomic domains and associations with preterm birth," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 67(8), pages 1247-1257, October.
    3. Masi, Christopher M. & Hawkley, Louise C. & Harry Piotrowski, Z. & Pickett, Kate E., 2007. "Neighborhood economic disadvantage, violent crime, group density, and pregnancy outcomes in a diverse, urban population," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(12), pages 2440-2457, December.
    4. Nathalie Auger & Alison Park & Sam Harper, 2012. "Francophone and Anglophone perinatal health: temporal and regional inequalities in a Canadian setting, 1981–2008," International Journal of Public Health, Springer;Swiss School of Public Health (SSPH+), vol. 57(6), pages 925-934, December.
    5. Rosenthal, Lisa & Lobel, Marci, 2011. "Explaining racial disparities in adverse birth outcomes: Unique sources of stress for Black American women," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(6), pages 977-983, March.
    6. Pickett, Kate E. & Shaw, Richard J. & Atkin, Karl & Kiernan, Kathleen E. & Wilkinson, Richard G., 2009. "Ethnic density effects on maternal and infant health in the Millennium Cohort Study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(10), pages 1476-1483, November.
    7. Vang, Zoua M. & Elo, Irma T., 2013. "Exploring the health consequences of majority–minority neighborhoods: Minority diversity and birthweight among native-born and foreign-born blacks," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 56-65.
    8. Ncube, Collette N. & Enquobahrie, Daniel A. & Albert, Steven M. & Herrick, Amy L. & Burke, Jessica G., 2016. "Association of neighborhood context with offspring risk of preterm birth and low birthweight: A systematic review and meta-analysis of population-based studies," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 153(C), pages 156-164.
    9. Vinikoor, Lisa C. & Kaufman, Jay S. & MacLehose, Richard F. & Laraia, Barbara A., 2008. "Effects of racial density and income incongruity on pregnancy outcomes in less segregated communities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 255-259, January.
    10. Phillips, Ghasi S. & Wise, Lauren A. & Rich-Edwards, Janet W. & Stampfer, Meir J. & Rosenberg, Lynn, 2009. "Income incongruity, relative household income, and preterm birth in the Black Women's Health Study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(12), pages 2122-2128, June.
    11. Bell, Janice F. & Zimmerman, Frederick J. & Almgren, Gunnar R. & Mayer, Jonathan D. & Huebner, Colleen E., 2006. "Birth outcomes among urban African-American women: A multilevel analysis of the role of racial residential segregation," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(12), pages 3030-3045, December.
    12. Schempf, Ashley & Strobino, Donna & O'Campo, Patricia, 2009. "Neighborhood effects on birthweight: An exploration of psychosocial and behavioral pathways in Baltimore, 1995-1996," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 100-110, January.


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