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Race disparities in low birth weight in the U.S. south and the rest of the nation


  • Nepomnyaschy, Lenna


There are well-documented and as yet unexplained disparities in birth outcomes by race in the USA. This paper examines the sources of disparities in low birth weight between blacks and whites in the US, by focusing on differences in disparities between two very distinct geographic areas, the Deep South and the rest of the country. Two findings from prior research drive the analyses: first, health overall is worse in the Deep South states; second, race disparities are smaller in the Deep South than in the rest of the nation. A number of potential explanations for these findings are examined using nationally representative data on approximately 8,000 children born in the US in 2001. Results suggest that, first, almost all of the increased burden of low birth weight in the Deep South states may be explained by differences in race composition and socioeconomic status between the Deep South and rest of the nation. Second, the slightly lower race disparities found in the Deep South states are being driven not by better outcomes for black mothers, but by two other factors: higher returns to socioeconomic status for black mothers and much worse outcomes for poor white mothers in the Deep South compared with the rest of the country.

Suggested Citation

  • Nepomnyaschy, Lenna, 2010. "Race disparities in low birth weight in the U.S. south and the rest of the nation," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(5), pages 684-691, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:70:y:2010:i:5:p:684-691

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Rajeev Dehejia & Adriana Lleras-Muney, 2004. "Booms, Busts, and Babies' Health," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(3), pages 1091-1130.
    2. Buescher, P.A. & Taylor, K.P. & Davis, M.H. & Bowling, J.M., 1993. "The quality of the new birth certificate data: A validation study in North Carolina," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 83(8), pages 1163-1165.
    3. repec:pri:cheawb:adriana_booms.pdf is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Geronimus, A.T. & Hicken, M. & Keene, D. & Bound, J., 2006. ""Weathering" and age patterns of allostatic load scores among blacks and whites in the United States," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 96(5), pages 826-833.
    5. repec:pri:cheawb:adriana_booms is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Colen, C.G. & Geronimus, A.T. & Bound, J. & James, S.A., 2006. "Maternal upward socioeconomic mobility and Black-White disparities in infant birthweight," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 96(11), pages 2032-2039.
    7. Arline Geronimus & John Bound & Timothy Waidmann & Cynthia Colen & Dianne Steffick, 2001. "Inequality in life expectancy, functional status, and active life expectancy across selected black and white populations in the United States," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 38(2), pages 227-251, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Thompson, Owen, 2011. "Racial disparities in the cognition-health relationship," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 328-339, March.


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