Low birth weight, social factors, and developmental outcomes among children in the United States

Abstract

We used six waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Child Data (1986–1996) to assess the relative impact of adverse birth outcomes vis-à-vis social risk factors on children’s developmental outcomes. Using the Peabody Individual Achievement Tests of Mathematics and Reading Recognition as our outcome variables, we also evaluated the dynamic nature of biological and social risk factors from ages 6 to 14. We found the following: (1) birth weight is significantly related to developmental outcomes, net of important social and economic controls; (2) the effect associated with adverse birth outcomes is significantly more pronounced at very low birth weights (< 1,500 grams) than at moderately low birth weights (1,500–2,499 grams); (3) whereas the relative effect of very low-birth-weight status is large, the effect of moderately low weight status, when compared with race/ethnicity and mother’s education, is small; and (4) the observed differentials between moderately low-birth-weight and normal-birth-weight children are substantially smaller among older children in comparison with younger children.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Barker, D.J. 1995. “Fetal Origins of Coronary Heart Disease.” British Journal of Medicine 311:171–74.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Barker, D.J., C. Osmond, S.J. Simmonds, and G.A. Wield. 1993. “The Relation of Small Head Circumference and Thinness at Birth to Death from Cardiovascular Disease in Adult Life.” British Journal of Medicine 306:422–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Behrman, J.R., M.R. Rosenzweig, and P. Taubman. 1994. “Endowments and the Allocation of Schooling in the Family and in the Marriage Market: The Twins Experiment.” Journal of Political Economy 102:1131–74.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Boardman, J.D., B.K. Finch, and R.A. Hummer. 2001. “Race, Birth Weight, and Maternal Reports of Asthma for a Nationally Representative Sample of Young Children in the United States.” Population Research and Policy Review 3:1–20.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Breslau, N. 1996. “Psychiatric Sequela of Low Birth Weight at 6 Years of Age.” Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 24:385–401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Brooks-Gunn, J. and G.J. Duncan. 1997. “The Effects of Poverty on Children.” The Future of Children 7:55–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Center for Human Resource Research. 1993. NLSY Child Handbook-Revised Edition. Columbus: Ohio State University, CHRR User Services.

    Google Scholar 

  8. —. 1998. 1996 Child and Young Adult Data: Users Guide. Columbus: Ohio State University, CHRR User Services.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Coleman, J.S., E.Q. Campbell, C.J. Hobson, J. McPartland, A.M. Mood, F.D. Wienfield, and R.L. York. 1966. Equality of Educational Opportunity. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Conley, D. and N.G. Bennett. 2000. “Is Biology Destiny? Birth Weight and Life Chances.” American Sociological Review 65:458–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Corman, H. and S. Chaikind. 1993. The Effect of Low Birthweight on the Health, Behavior, and School Performance of School-Aged Children. Working Paper Series, No. 4409. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Cramer, J.C. 1995. “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Birthweight: The Role of Income and Financial Assistance.” Demography 32:231–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Crooks, D.L. 1995. “American Children At Risk: Poverty and Its Consequences for Children’s Health, Growth, and School Achievement.” Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 38:57–86.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Dunn, L.M. and F.C. Markwardt, Jr. 1970. Peabody Individual Achievement Test Manual. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Eberstein, I.W., C.B. Nam, and R.A. Hummer. 1990. “Infant Mortality by Cause: Main and Interaction Effects.” Demography 27:413–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Ferguson, R.F. 2001. “Test-Score Trends Along Racial Lines, 1971–1996: Popular Culture and Community Academic Standards.” Pp. 348–90 in America Becoming, edited by N.J. Smelser, W.J. Wilson, and F. Mitchell. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Frisbie, W.P., D. Forbes, and S.G. Pullum. 1996. “Compromised Birth Outcomes and Infant Mortality Among Racial and Ethnic Groups.” Demography 33:469–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Godfrey, K.M. and D.J. Barker. 2001. “Fetal Programming and Adult Health.” Public Health Nutrition 4:611–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Goldstein, H. 1995. Multilevel Statistical Models. 2nd ed. New York: Halstad Press.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Guo, G. 1998. “The Timing of the Influences of Cumulative Poverty on Children’s Cognitive Ability and Achievement.” Social Forces 77:257–88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Guo, G. and K.M. Harris. 2000. “The Mechanisms Mediating the Effects of Poverty on Children’s Intellectual Development.” Demography 37:431–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Hack, M., N.K. Klein, and H.G. Taylor. 1995. “Long-Term Developmental Outcomes of Low Birth Weight Infants.” The Future of Children 5:176–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Henke, R., X. Chen, and S. Geis. 2000. Progress Through the Teacher Pipeline: 1992–93 College Graduates and Elementary/Secondary School Teaching as of 1997. NCES 2000-152. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Hsiao, C. 1986. Analysis of Panel Data. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Hummer, R.A., M. Biegler, P.B. DeTurk, D. Forbes, W.P. Frisbie, Ying Hong, and S.G. Pullum. 1999. “Race/Ethnicity, Nativity, and Infant Mortality in the United States.” Social Forces 77:1083–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Jargowsky, P.A. 1997. Poverty and Place: Ghettos, Barrios, and the American City. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Kallan, J.E. 1993. “Race, Intervening Variables, and Two Components of Low Birth Weight.” Demography 30:489–506.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Klebanov, P.K., J. Brooks-Gunn, C. McCarton, and M.C. McCormick. 1998. “The Contribution of Neighborhood and Family Income to Developmental Test Scores Over the First Three Years of Life.” Child Development 69:1420–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Kline, J., Z. Stein, and M. Susser. 1989. Conception to Birth: Epidemiology of Prenatal Development. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Lee, H. and M.S. Barratt. 1993. “Cognitive Development of Preterm Low Birth Weight Children at 5 to 8 Years Old.” Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 14:242–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Levine, J.A., H. Pollack, and M.E. Comfort. 2001. “Academic and Behavioral Outcomes Among the Children of Young Mothers.” Journal of Marriage and Family 63:355–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Littell, R.C., G.A. Milliken, W.W. Stroup, and R.D. Wolfinger. 1996. SAS System for Mixed Models. Cary, NC: SAS Institute.

    Google Scholar 

  33. MacDorman, M.F. and J.O. Atkinson. 1999. “Infant Mortality Statistics From the 1997 Period Linked Birth/Infant Death Data Set.” National Vital Statistics Reports 47(23). Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Mayer, D.P., J.E. Mullens, and M.T. Moore. 2000. Monitoring School Quality: An Indicators Report. NCES 2001–30. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

    Google Scholar 

  35. McCormick, M.C., S.L. Gortmaker, and A.M. Sobol. 1990. “Very Low Birth Weight Children: Behavior Problems and School Difficulty in a National Sample.” Journal of Pediatrics 117: 687–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. McLoyd, V.C. 1998. “Socioeconomic Disadvantage and Child Development.” American Psychologist 53:185–204.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Roscigno, V.J. 1998. “Race and the Reproduction of Educational Disadvantage.” Social Forces 76:1033–60.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Singh, G.K. and S.M. Yu. 1996. “Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes: Differences Between U.S.- and Foreign-Born Women in Major U.S. Racial and Ethnic Groups.” American Journal of Public Health 86:837–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Smith, J.R., J. Brooks-Gunn, and P.K. Klebanov. 1997. “Consequences of Living in Poverty for Young Children’s Cognitive and Verbal Ability and Early School Achievement.” Pp. 132–89 in Consequences of Growing Up Poor, edited by G.J. Duncan and J. Brooks-Gunn. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Solis, P., S.G. Pullum, and W.P. Frisbie. 2000. “Demographic Models of Birth Outcomes and Infant Mortality: An Alternative Measurement Approach.” Demography 37:489–98.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Strauss, R.S. 2000. “Adult Functional Outcome of Those Born Small for Gestational Age: Twenty-Six-Year Follow-up of the 1970 British Birth Cohort.” Journal of the American Medical Association 283:625–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Ventura, S.J., J.A. Martin, S.C. Curtin, F. Menacker, and B. Hamilton. 2001. “Births: Final Data for 1999.” National Vital Statistics Reports 49(1).

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jason D. Boardman.

Additional information

This research was funded by NICHD Grant R01-35949. The authors thank W. Parker Frisbie, Brian Karl Finch, Shelley Blozis, Marilyn Espitia, and the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Boardman, J.D., Powers, D.A., Padilla, Y.C. et al. Low birth weight, social factors, and developmental outcomes among children in the United States. Demography 39, 353–368 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1353/dem.2002.0015

Download citation

Keywords

  • Birth Weight
  • Developmental Outcome
  • Adverse Birth Outcome
  • Social Risk Factor
  • Human Resource Research