Journal of Urban Health

, Volume 83, Issue 6, pp 1041–1062 | Cite as

The Development of a Standardized Neighborhood Deprivation Index

  • Lynne C. Messer
  • Barbara A. Laraia
  • Jay S. Kaufman
  • Janet Eyster
  • Claudia Holzman
  • Jennifer Culhane
  • Irma Elo
  • Jessica G. Burke
  • Patricia O’Campo


Census data are widely used for assessing neighborhood socioeconomic context. Research using census data has been inconsistent in variable choice and usually limited to single geographic areas. This paper seeks to a) outline a process for developing a neighborhood deprivation index using principal components analysis and b) demonstrate an example of its utility for identifying contextual variables that are associated with perinatal health outcomes across diverse geographic areas. Year 2000 U.S. Census and vital records birth data (1998–2001) were merged at the census tract level for 19 cities (located in three states) and five suburban counties (located in three states), which were used to create eight study areas within four states. Census variables representing five socio-demographic domains previously associated with health outcomes, including income/poverty, education, employment, housing, and occupation, were empirically summarized using principal components analysis. The resulting first principal component, hereafter referred to as neighborhood deprivation, accounted for 51 to 73% of the total variability across eight study areas. Component loadings were consistent both within and across study areas (0.2–0.4), suggesting that each variable contributes approximately equally to “deprivation” across diverse geographies. The deprivation index was associated with the unadjusted prevalence of preterm birth and low birth weight for white non-Hispanic and to a lesser extent for black non-Hispanic women across the eight sites. The high correlations between census variables, the inherent multidimensionality of constructs like neighborhood deprivation, and the observed associations with birth outcomes suggest the utility of using a deprivation, index for research into neighborhood effects on adverse birth outcomes.


Low birth weight Premature birth Residence characteristics Social class. 



Financial and technical support for this study was provided by the NHEERL—DESE Cooperative Training in Environmental Sciences Research, EPA CT 829471 and The Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Many thanks to Lisa Vinikoor for her work on the project and to Robert DeVellis, who reviewed an earlier version of this manuscript. The authors are indebted to Michael Kogan (MCHB/HRSA), John Park (formerly of MCHB), Mary Kay Kenney (MCHB/HRSA), Paul Buescher (North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics), Violanda Grigorescu (Office of Vital and Health Statistics, Michigan Department of Community Health), Brian Castrucci (Philadelphia Department of Public Health, Division of Maternal, Child, and Family Health) and Isabelle Horon (Vital Statistics Administration, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene). Jennifer Culhane, Claudia Holzman, Barbara Laraia, and Patricia O’Campo are principal investigators and share equal responsibility for this project.


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Copyright information

© The New York Academy of Medicine 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lynne C. Messer
    • 1
    • 2
  • Barbara A. Laraia
    • 3
  • Jay S. Kaufman
    • 4
  • Janet Eyster
    • 5
  • Claudia Holzman
    • 6
  • Jennifer Culhane
    • 7
  • Irma Elo
    • 8
  • Jessica G. Burke
    • 9
  • Patricia O’Campo
    • 10
    • 11
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Sciences and EngineeringUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Human Studies DivisionU.S. EPA/National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory (NHEERL)Research Triangle ParkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Nutrition, School of Public HealthUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Department of Epidemiology, School of Public HealthUniversity of North CarolinaChapel HillUSA
  5. 5.College of Human MedicineMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  6. 6.Department of EpidemiologyMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  7. 7.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyDrexel College of MedicinePhiladelphiaUSA
  8. 8.Population Studies CenterUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  9. 9.Department of Behavioral and Community Health SciencesGraduate School of Public HealthPittsburghUSA
  10. 10.Public Health SciencesUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  11. 11.Inner City Health Research UnitSt. Michael’s HospitalTorontoCanada

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