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Ethnic density effects on maternal and infant health in the Millennium Cohort Study


  • Pickett, Kate E.
  • Shaw, Richard J.
  • Atkin, Karl
  • Kiernan, Kathleen E.
  • Wilkinson, Richard G.


Studies have suggested that members of ethnic minority groups might be healthier when they live in areas with a high concentration of people from their own ethnic group - in spite of higher levels of material deprivation typically found within such areas. We investigated the effects of area-level same-ethnic density on maternal and infant health, independent of area deprivation and individual socioeconomic status, in five ethnic minority groups. The study was a cross-sectional analysis within the UK Millennium Cohort Study and included mothers in five ethnic minority groups (Black African n = 367, Bangladeshi n = 369, Black Caribbean n = 252, Indian n = 462 and Pakistani n = 868) and their 9-month-old infants. Outcome measures included: low birth weight, preterm delivery, maternal depression, self-rated health and limiting long-standing illness. Compared to those who live in areas with less than 5% of people from the same-ethnic minority population, Indian and Pakistani mothers were significantly less likely to report ever being depressed in areas with high same-ethnic density. There was a protective effect of ethnic density for limiting long-term illness among Bangladeshi mothers at 5-30% density and Pakistani mothers at all higher densities. Ethnic density was unrelated to infant outcomes and maternal self-rated health, and unrelated to any outcomes in Black African and Black Caribbean mothers and infants, possibly because no families in these groups lived at higher levels of same-ethnic density. Results were similar whether we examined smaller or larger residential areas. We conclude that, among ethnic minority mothers and infants in England, the relationship of ethnic density to health varies by ethnicity and outcome. For some measures of maternal health, in some ethnic groups, the psychosocial advantages of shared culture, social networks and social capital may override the adverse effects of material deprivation.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:69:y:2009:i:10:p:1476-1483

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
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    3. 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.
    4. Halpern, David, 1993. "Minorities and mental health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 36(5), pages 597-607, March.
    5. Fagg, James & Curtis, Sarah & Stansfeld, Stephen & Congdon, Peter, 2006. "Psychological distress among adolescents, and its relationship to individual, family and area characteristics in East London," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 636-648, August.
    6. 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.
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    8. 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.
    9. Abada, Teresa & Hou, Feng & Ram, Bali, 2007. "Racially mixed neighborhoods, perceived neighborhood social cohesion, and adolescent health in Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(10), pages 2004-2017, November.
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    1. repec:pri:crcwel:wp10-11-ff is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:kap:poprpr:v:36:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s11113-017-9445-1 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Kramer, Michael R. & Cooper, Hannah L. & Drews-Botsch, Carolyn D. & Waller, Lance A. & Hogue, Carol R., 2010. "Metropolitan isolation segregation and Black-White disparities in very preterm birth: A test of mediating pathways and variance explained," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(12), pages 2108-2116, December.
    4. Janevic, T. & Borrell, L.N. & Savitz, D.A. & Echeverria, S.E. & Rundle, A., 2014. "Ethnic enclaves and gestational diabetes among immigrant women in New York City," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 120(C), pages 180-189.
    5. Margot Jackson & Kathleen Kiernan & Sara McLanahan, 2010. "Nativity Differences in Child Development across Diverse Populations, Settings and Outcomes: Do Socioeconomic Resources Narrow or Widen the Gap?," Working Papers 1270, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    6. Bécares, Laia & Nazroo, James & Jackson, James & Heuvelman, Hein, 2012. "Ethnic density effects on health and experienced racism among Caribbean people in the US and England: A cross-national comparison," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(12), pages 2107-2115.
    7. Auger, Nathalie & Park, Alison L. & Gamache, Philippe & Pampalon, Robert & Daniel, Mark, 2012. "Weighing the contributions of material and social area deprivation to preterm birth," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(6), pages 1032-1037.


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