Birth outcomes of immigrant women in the United States, France, and Belgium

Matern Child Health J. 1999 Dec;3(4):177-87. doi: 10.1023/a:1022328020935.


Objectives: To compare maternal characteristics and birth outcomes of Mexico-born and native-born mothers in the United States and those of North African mothers living in France and Belgium to French and Belgian nationals.

Methods: We examined information from single live birth certificates for 285,371 Mexico-born and 3,131,632 U.S.-born mothers (including 2,537,264 U.S.-born White mothers) in the United States, 4,623 North African and 103,345 Belgian mothers in Belgium, and a French national random sample consisting of 632 North African and 11,185 French mothers. The outcomes were mean birthweight, low birthweight, and preterm births. Differences between native/nationals and foreign-born mothers in each country were assessed in bivariate and multivariate analyses controlling for maternal risk factors.

Results: The adjusted odds for low birthweight were lower for immigrants than native/nationals by 32% in the United States, by 32% in Belgium, and by 30% in France. The adjusted odds for preterm births were lower for immigrants compared with native/nationals by 11% in the United States and by 23% in Belgium. In France, the odds for preterm births were comparable for immigrants and naturalized mothers. Infants of immigrant mothers also had higher mean birthweights in all three countries.

Conclusion: Despite their disadvantaged status, Mexico-born and North African-born women residing in the United States, France, and Belgium show good birth outcomes. These cannot be explained solely by traditional risk factors. Protective factors and selective migration may offer further clues.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Africa, Northern / ethnology
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Birth Certificates
  • Birth Weight
  • Black People
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emigration and Immigration / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mexican Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Population Surveillance
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome / ethnology*
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data