We examined the association between life events stressors during pregnancy and low birth weight (LBW) among African Americans and Whites, while systematically controlling for potential confounders including individual characteristics and city-level variations and clustering. We analyzed data from 4970 women with singleton births who participated in the 2007 and 2010 Los Angeles Mommy and Baby Surveys. Multilevel logistic regression was used to assess the association between emotional, financial, spousal and traumatic stressors and LBW among African Americans and Whites. Potential confounders included were: the city-level Economic Hardship Index, maternal demographics, pre-pregnancy conditions, insurance, behavioral risk factors and social support. African Americans were significantly more likely to experience any domain of stressors during their pregnancy, compared to Whites (p < 0.001). Only the association between financial stressors and LBW was significantly different between African Americans and Whites (p for interaction = 0.015). Experience of financial stressors during pregnancy was significantly associated with LBW among African Americans (adjusted odds ratio = 1.49; 95 % confidence interval = 1.01-2.22) but not Whites. Differential impact of financial stressors during pregnancy may contribute to racial disparities in LBW between African Americans and Whites. We showed that financial life event stressors, but not other domains of stressors, were more likely to impact LBW among African Americans than Whites. Initiatives aimed at mitigating the negative impacts of financial stress during pregnancy may contribute to reducing disparities in birth outcomes between African Americans and Whites.
Keywords: Financial stress; Life event stressor; Low birth weight; Multilevel analysis; Racial disparity.