Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 19, Issue 10, pp 2251–2260 | Cite as

Community Level Correlates of Low Birthweight Among African American, Hispanic and White Women in California

  • Denise Herd
  • Paul Gruenewald
  • Lillian Remer
  • Sylvia Guendelman



Racial and ethnic groups in the US exhibit major differences in low birthweight (LBW) rates. While previous studies have shown that community level social indicators associated with LBW vary by race and ethnicity, it is not known whether these differences exist among racial or ethnic groups who live in the same neighborhood or community. To address this question, we examined the association of community level features with LBW among African American, White and Hispanic women who live in similar geographic areas.


The analysis is based on geocoded birth certificates for all singleton live births in the year 2000 to women residing in 805 California ZIP codes. Community level social and demographic data were obtained from U.S. Census data files for the year 2000 and surrogate indices of population level alcohol and drug abuse and dependence were derived from hospital discharge data (HDD). Tobit and bootstrap analyses were used to test associations with birth outcomes, maternal characteristics, and community level social and demographic features within and across the three groups of women living in similar geographic areas.


The results demonstrate major racial and ethnic differences in community level correlates of LBW. Rates of LBW among African Americans were lower if they lived in areas that were more densely populated, had greater income disparities, were more racially segregated, and had low rates of alcohol abuse or dependence. These associations were different or absent for Hispanic and White women.

Conclusions for Practice

The results suggest that despite living in the same areas, major differences in neighborhood features and social processes are linked to birth outcomes of African American women compared to Hispanic and White women. Further research, especially using multilevel approaches, is needed to precisely identify these differences to help reduce racial and ethnic disparities in LBW.


Low birthweight Neighborhoods African Americans Hispanics Socioeconomic status Community level indicators Alcohol Drugs 



Research for and preparation of this manuscript were supported by a UC Berkeley Research Futures Grant Program Award and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Center Grant No. P60-AA06282 and research Grant R37-AA12927. Thanks to Evan Sicuranza, Angela Ni, Sami Newlan, and Zayn Karssli for bibliographic and manuscript preparation support.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no competing of interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public HealthUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Prevention Research CenterOaklandUSA

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