Change in birth outcomes among infants born to Latina mothers after a major immigration raid

Int J Epidemiol. 2017 Jun 1;46(3):839-849. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyw346.


Background: Growing evidence indicates that immigration policy and enforcement adversely affect the well-being of Latino immigrants, but fewer studies examine 'spillover effects' on USA-born Latinos. Immigration enforcement is often diffuse, covert and difficult to measure. By contrast, the federal immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, in 2008 was, at the time, the largest single-site federal immigration raid in US history.

Methods: We employed a quasi-experimental design, examining ethnicity-specific patterns in birth outcomes before and after the Postville raid. We analysed Iowa birth-certificate data to compare risk of term and preterm low birthweight (LBW), by ethnicity and nativity, in the 37 weeks following the raid to the same 37-week period the previous year ( n = 52 344). We model risk of adverse birth outcomes using modified Poisson regression and model distribution of birthweight using quantile regression.

Results: Infants born to Latina mothers had a 24% greater risk of LBW after the raid when compared with the same period 1 year earlier [risk ratio (95% confidence interval) = 1.24 (0.98, 1.57)]. No such change was observed among infants born to non-Latina White mothers. Increased risk of LBW was observed for USA-born and immigrant Latina mothers. The association between raid timing and LBW was stronger among term than preterm births. Changes in birthweight after the raid primarily reflected decreased birthweight below the 5th percentile of the distribution, not a shift in mean birthweight.

Conclusions: Our findings highlight the implications of racialized stressors not only for the health of Latino immigrants, but also for USA-born co-ethnics.

Keywords: Latinos/Hispanics; birth outcomes; immigration enforcement; nativity; stress.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Certificates
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Iowa
  • Law Enforcement / methods
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / ethnology
  • Premature Birth / ethnology*
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology*
  • Undocumented Immigrants / psychology*
  • White People
  • Young Adult