Differential Effects of Pregnancy-Specific Alcohol Policies on Drinking Among Pregnant Women by Race/Ethnicity

Health Equity. 2018 Dec 13;2(1):356-365. doi: 10.1089/heq.2018.0059. eCollection 2018.


Purpose: Alcohol use during pregnancy is a significant public health concern. Nearly all U.S. states have enacted policies targeting alcohol use during pregnancy, but there has been little research examining their impact, particularly across racial/ethnic groups. Methods: Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and about eight state-level, pregnancy-specific alcohol policies from 1985 to 2016, the aim of this study was to examine the differential effects of these policies on drinking among pregnant women by race/ethnicity. Results: We found evidence of differential effects for priority treatment, prohibitions on criminal prosecution, and civil commitment policies. In relation to priority treatment policies, effects benefited versus harmed different racial/ethnic groups depending on whether the priority treatment policies were for pregnant women only or if they gave priority to both pregnant women and pregnant women with children. Conclusions: Findings from this study suggest that benefits and harms from these policies do not appear to be equitably distributed across different racial/ethnic groups. Research considering the impact of alcohol/pregnancy policies should consider differential effects by race/ethnicity.

Keywords: alcohol; alcohol policy; binge drinking; pregnancy.