Maternal birthplace, ethnicity, and low birth weight in California

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998 Nov;152(11):1105-12. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.152.11.1105.


Background: Although immigrants to the United States are usually ethnic minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged, foreign-born women generally have lower rates of low birth weight infants than do US-born women.

Objective: To measure the relationship between maternal birthplace, ethnicity, and low birth weight infants.

Design: Retrospective cohort study of birth certificate data.

Setting: California, 1992.

Subjects: Singleton infants (n = 497 868) born to Asian, black, Latina, and white women.

Main outcome measures: Very low birth weight (500-1499 g), moderately low birth weight (1500-2499 g), and normal birth weight (2500-4000 g, reference category).

Results: Foreign-born Latina women generally had less favorable maternal characteristics than US-born Latinas, yet foreign-born Latina women were less likely to have moderately low birth weight infants (odds ratio, 0.91; 95% confidence interval, 0.86-0.96) than US-born Latinas after adjusting for maternal age, education, marital status, parity, tobacco use, use of prenatal care, and gestational age. While foreign-born Asian women generally had a less favorable profile of maternal characteristics than US-born Asians, there was no statistically significant difference in the odds of very low birth weight or moderately low birth weight infants between foreign- and US-born Asian women. Foreign-born black women had more favorable maternal characteristics than US-born women, but there was no significant nativity difference in very low birth weight or moderately low birth weight between foreign- and US-born black women after adjusting for maternal and infant factors.

Conclusions: The relationship between maternal birthplace and low birth weight varies by ethnicity. Further study is needed to understand the favorable pregnancy outcomes of foreign-born Latina women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Birth Weight
  • California / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Ethnicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight*
  • Parity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome / ethnology*
  • Retrospective Studies