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Title:Neighborhood social environments and the distribution of low-birthweight in Chicago
Author(s):Roberts, Eric Miklos
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Weinberg, Nancy
Department / Program:Social Work
Discipline:Social Work
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Social Work
Health Sciences, Public Health
Sociology, Social Structure and Development
Sociology, Demography
Abstract:Mothers in different social groups tend to have very different health outcomes in pregnancy. Ordinarily, social inequalities in rates of low birthweight (LBW) are discussed in terms of risk factors for these conditions, such as race, income, education, or prenatal care use, which largely focus on individual behaviors and circumstances to explain inequalities in maternal health. It is likely, however, that social phenomena that affect groups of people, such as economics, segregation, and community structure, play a role in creating social inequalities in health as well. For this inquiry, I tested characteristics of communities such as poverty and unemployment rates, housing costs, and ethnic composition as risk factors for LBW. In this way, the idea of maternal health as a product of transactions between individual mothers and their social environments could be explored.
Information regarding maternal and infant characteristics was drawn from Illinois vital records for the Chicago Metropolitan Area for 1990 (n = 112,327); characteristics of urban neighborhoods and suburbs were drawn from United States Census records for the same year. Logistic regression analysis was used to test associations of the community characteristics with individual probability of low birthweight (birthweight $<$ 2,500g) while controlling for traditional, individual-level risk factors. Coefficients were removed from the resulting model in a backwards-stepwise fashion until only significant predictors of LBW remained.
Findings suggest that a multiplicity of social forces drive the variations in LBW between mothers in different communities. Most pronounced among the community-level predictors was an index of poverty and unemployment; community measures of socioeconomic status and housing costs were also significant factors. These results suggest that social inequalities in maternal health can be seen as a product of the social stratification that is expressed in the geographic differentiation of the urban metropolitan area. Mechanisms for the effects may include the distribution of personal resources as well as the impact of economic hardship on the patterns of social support within communities. Rates of crowded housing units, the percentage of African-American residents, and the prevalence of children in communities were negatively associated with LBW, suggesting that norms of social support vary between communities and may mitigate some of the effects of economic hardship on individual maternal health.
Issue Date:1995
Rights Information:Copyright 1995 Roberts, Eric Miklos
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9543704
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9543704

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