Explaining Race and Ethnic Disparities in Birthweight in Chicago Neighborhoods
This paper examines the contribution of neighborhood and maternal characteristics to birthweight differentials among infants born to non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic white, and Mexican-origin Hispanic mothers (of any race). Linear regression models with neighborhood fixed effects were estimated using birth certificate records for all births in Chicago from 1990. About 30 percent of the black/white disparity and about 14 percent of the black/Mexican-origin Hispanic disparity were due to neighborhood conditions. Adjusting for neighborhood and maternal characteristics accounted for 64 percent of the black/white differential and 57 percent of the black/Mexican-origin Hispanic differential. Around half of the black/white differential and the black/Mexican-origin Hispanic differential in birthweight were due to differences, across racial/ethnic groups, in the relationship between measured characteristics and birthweight. Efforts to close the birthweight gap between non-Hispanic black and other infants must go beyond programs aimed solely at reducing the level of risk factors among African-American women. Future interventions also need to address the causes of differences in the effects of key risk factors across racial and ethnic groups.
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