Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 13, Issue 6, pp 769–779 | Cite as

One Size Does Not Fit All: An Examination of Low Birthweight Disparities Among a Diverse Set of Racial/Ethnic Groups

  • P. Johnelle SparksEmail author


To examine disparities in low birthweight using a diverse set of racial/ethnic categories and a nationally representative sample. This research explored the degree to which sociodemographic characteristics, health care access, maternal health status, and health behaviors influence birthweight disparities among seven racial/ethnic groups. Binary logistic regression models were estimated using a nationally representative sample of singleton, normal for gestational age births from 2001 using the ECLS-B, which has an approximate sample size of 7,800 infants. The multiple variable models examine disparities in low birthweight (LBW) for seven racial/ethnic groups, including non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, U.S.-born Mexican-origin Hispanic, foreign-born Mexican-origin Hispanic, other Hispanic, Native American, and Asian mothers. Race-stratified logistic regression models were also examined. In the full sample models, only non-Hispanic black mothers have a LBW disadvantage compared to non-Hispanic white mothers. Maternal WIC usage was protective against LBW in the full models. No prenatal care and adequate plus prenatal care increase the odds of LBW. In the race-stratified models, prenatal care adequacy and high maternal health risks are the only variables that influence LBW for all racial/ethnic groups. The race-stratified models highlight the different mechanism important across the racial/ethnic groups in determining LBW. Differences in the distribution of maternal sociodemographic, health care access, health status, and behavior characteristics by race/ethnicity demonstrate that a single empirical framework may distort associations with LBW for certain racial and ethnic groups. More attention must be given to the specific mechanisms linking maternal risk factors to poor birth outcomes for specific racial/ethnic groups.


Low birthweight Racial/ethnic disparities ECLS-B WIC Prenatal care adequacy 



The author gratefully acknowledges funding for this project from a Faculty Research Grant from the College of Public Policy at the University of Texas at San Antonio and a Faculty Summer Research Award from the San Antonio Health Services Research Program. This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board of the University of Texas at San Antonio.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Demography and Organization StudiesThe University of Texas at San AntonioSan AntonioUSA

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