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Soc Sci Med. 2007 Oct;65(8):1792-806. Epub 2007 Jul 20.

The association between contextual socioeconomic factors and prevalent asthma in a cohort of Southern California school children.

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  • 1University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA. shankard@usc.edu

Abstract

Spatial variation in childhood asthma and a recent increase in prevalence indicate that environmental factors play a significant role in the etiology of this important disease. Socioeconomic position (SEP) has been associated inversely and positively with childhood asthma. These contradictory results indicate a need for systematic research about SEP and asthma. Pathways have been suggested for effects of SEP on asthma at both the individual and community level. We examined the relationship of prevalent asthma to community-level indicators of SEP among 5762 children in 12 Southern California communities, using a multilevel random effects model. Estimates of community-level SEP were derived by summarizing census block group-level data using a novel method of weighting by the proportion of the block groups included in a community-specific bounding rectangle that contained 95% of local study subjects. Community characteristics included measures of male unemployment, household income, low education (i.e., no high school diploma) and poverty. There was a consistent inverse association between male unemployment and asthma across the inter-quartile range of community unemployment rates, indicating that asthma rates increase as community SEP increases. The results were robust to individual-level confounding, methods for summarizing census block group data to the community level, scale of analysis (i.e., community-level vs. neighborhood-level) and the modeling algorithm. The positive association between SEP and prevalent childhood asthma might be explained by differential access to medical care that remains unmeasured, by the hygiene hypothesis (e.g., lower SES may associate with higher protective exposures to endotoxin in early life), or by SEP acting as a proxy for unmeasured neighborhood characteristics.

PMID:
17658674
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC4098912
Free PMC Article
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