Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 19, Issue 10, pp 2195–2205 | Cite as

Association Between Life Event Stressors and Low Birth Weight in African American and White Populations: Findings from the 2007 and 2010 Los Angeles Mommy and Baby (LAMB) Surveys

  • Yuan Zhao
  • Trace Kershaw
  • Adrienne S. Ettinger
  • Chandra Higgins
  • Michael C. Lu
  • Shin M. Chao


We examined the association between life events stressors during pregnancy and low birth weight (LBW) among African Americans and Whites, while systematically controlling for potential confounders including individual characteristics and city-level variations and clustering. We analyzed data from 4970 women with singleton births who participated in the 2007 and 2010 Los Angeles Mommy and Baby Surveys. Multilevel logistic regression was used to assess the association between emotional, financial, spousal and traumatic stressors and LBW among African Americans and Whites. Potential confounders included were: the city-level Economic Hardship Index, maternal demographics, pre-pregnancy conditions, insurance, behavioral risk factors and social support. African Americans were significantly more likely to experience any domain of stressors during their pregnancy, compared to Whites (p < 0.001). Only the association between financial stressors and LBW was significantly different between African Americans and Whites (p for interaction = 0.015). Experience of financial stressors during pregnancy was significantly associated with LBW among African Americans (adjusted odds ratio = 1.49; 95 % confidence interval = 1.01–2.22) but not Whites. Differential impact of financial stressors during pregnancy may contribute to racial disparities in LBW between African Americans and Whites. We showed that financial life event stressors, but not other domains of stressors, were more likely to impact LBW among African Americans than Whites. Initiatives aimed at mitigating the negative impacts of financial stress during pregnancy may contribute to reducing disparities in birth outcomes between African Americans and Whites.


Financial stress Life event stressor Low birth weight Multilevel analysis Racial disparity 



The authors would like to acknowledge with sincere appreciation the Los Angeles Mommy and Baby (LAMB) survey study team (Diana Liu, Marian Eldahaby, Carmen Gutierrez, Yeghishe Nazinyan, Rozana Ceballos, Judith Zarate) for their dedicated work in the design and implementation of the 2007 and 2010 LAMB projects. The authors also wish to thank Ms. Louise Rollin_Alamilo from the Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology in Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, for computing and sharing the Economic Hardship Index. The LAMB project was made possible by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Grant #R40MC06635, the Los Angeles County Productivity and Investment fund, and the Los Angeles County Department of Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health (MCAH) Programs general grants. One author also received funding support from the Epi Scholars Program at Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to work on this project.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yuan Zhao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Trace Kershaw
    • 1
    • 3
  • Adrienne S. Ettinger
    • 1
    • 4
  • Chandra Higgins
    • 2
  • Michael C. Lu
    • 5
  • Shin M. Chao
    • 2
  1. 1.Yale School of Public HealthNew HavenUSA
  2. 2.Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health ProgramsLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Yale Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDSNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.Yale Center for Perinatal, Pediatric, and Environmental EpidemiologyNew HavenUSA
  5. 5.Health Resources and Services AdministrationU.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesRockvilleUSA

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