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Am J Public Health. 1999 Jun;89(6):868-74.

The prevalence of low income among childbearing women in California: implications for the private and public sectors.

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  • 1Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California, San Francisco 94143, USA.



This study examined the income distribution of childbearing women in California and sought to identify income groups at increased risk of untimely prenatal care.


A 1994/95 cross-sectional statewide survey of 10,132 postpartum women was used.


Sixty-five percent of all childbearing women had low income (0%-200% of the federal poverty level), and 46% were poor (0%-100% of the federal poverty level). Thirty-five percent of women with private prenatal coverage had low income. Most low-income women with Medi-Cal (California's Medicaid) or private coverage received their prenatal care at private-sector sites. Compared with women with incomes over 400% of the poverty level, both poor and near-poor women were at significantly elevated risk of untimely care after adjustment for insurance, education, age, parity, marital status, and ethnicity (adjusted odds ratios = 5.32 and 3.09, respectively).


This study's results indicate that low-income women are the mainstream maternity population, not a "special needs" subgroup; even among privately insured childbearing women, a substantial proportion have low income. Efforts to increase timely prenatal care initiation cannot focus solely on women with Medicaid, the uninsured, women in absolute poverty, or those who receive care at public-sector sites.

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