Objectives: Using data on 2868 children born in the Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study, we examined the association between changes in family socioeconomic status and childhood asthma.
Methods: We determined the likelihood (odds ratio) of a child having asthma at ages 6 and 14 years for 4 family-income trajectories (chronic low, increasing, decreasing, and never low) over the child's lifetime. The trajectories were created from longitudinal latent-class models.
Results: We found a 2-fold increased risk of asthma at age 14 years among children who had lived in a low-income family since birth, especially for girls. Asthma was less likely to occur in children born to single parents; income rose over time in many of these families. Compared with children in chronic low-income families, children in households with increasing incomes had a 60% lower risk of asthma. Single-point measures of low income were not found to be associated with asthma.
Conclusions: Chronic exposure to a low-income environment from birth was associated with the development of persistent asthma. There was also a protective effect against asthma among those children whose families had moved out of poverty.