The prevalence of socioeconomic and behavioral characteristics and their impact on very low birth weight in black and white infants in Georgia

Matern Child Health J. 2001 Jun;5(2):75-84. doi: 10.1023/a:1011344914802.


Objectives: We examined possible reasons for the disparity in the rate of very low birth weight (VLBW) delivery (<1500 g) in the United States between black women and white women.

Methods: Using data from a population-based, case-control study of very low birth weight infants, we compared the prevalence of sociodemographic and behavioral characteristics between black and white mothers of normal birth weight infants; the difference in these characteristics between case and control mothers; and, using logistic regression, calculated odds ratios for VLBW for black versus white infants, adjusting for these characteristics.

Results: Although black women were disadvantaged on every variable examined, they did not report more behavioral risk factors. Among white women, several traditional risk factors were associated with VLBW, while among black women, only marital status, cigarette smoking, and vitamin nonuse were associated with VLBW delivery. Controlling for the socioeconomic and behavioral factors reduced the odds ratio for VLBW delivery among black mothers from 3.7 to 3.3.

Conclusions: Racial disparity in socioeconomic status may be greater than our current ability to adjust for it in epidemiologic studies. The fact that traditional risk factors were not associated with VLBW delivery in black women may be due to the very high prevalence of these risk factors among black women or to different or additional risks or stresses experienced by black women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Pregnancy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • White People