Racial/ethnic minority segregation and low birth weight in five North American cities

Racial/ethnic minority segregation and low birth weight in five North American citiesComparisons of communities across cities are rare in social epidemiology. Our prior work exploring racial/ethnic segregation and the prevalence of low birth weight (LBW) in communities from two large urban cities showed a strong relationship in Chicago and a very weak relationship in Toronto. This study extends that work by examining the association between racial/ ethnic minority segregation and LBW in total of 307 communities in five North American cities: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Toronto. We used Pearson correlation coefficients and OLS regression models to examine potential variability in the association between racial/ethnic minority segregation and LBW, controlling for community-level unemployment. In a combined model with community-level data from all cities, a 10% increase in minority composition is associated with a 0.7% increase in LBW. While racial/ethnic minority segregation and unemployment are not associated with LBW in Toronto, these social determinants have strong and significant associations with LBW across communities in the four US cities in the analysis. Subsequent models revealed opposite effects for percentage non-Hispanic Black and percentage Hispanic. Across communities in the US cities in this analysis, there is considerable similarity in the strength of the effect of racial/ethnic segregation on LBW. Future work should incorporate communities from additional cities, looking to identify community assets and public policies that allow some minority communities to thrive, while other minority communities suffer from a high prevalence of LBW. More work is also needed on the generalizability of these patterns to other health outcomes.

Fernando De Maio, David Ansell, & Raj C. Shah
Ethnicity & Health, 2018​​

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