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Soc Sci Med. 2006 Dec;63(12):2999-3012. Epub 2006 Sep 8.

Women's status and child well-being: a state-level analysis.

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Harvard School of Public Health Boston, MA, USA. <>


We conducted an ecologic analysis of the relation between women's status and child well-being in the 50 United States. State-level women's status was assessed via four composite indices: women's political participation, economic autonomy, employment and earnings, and reproductive rights. Child well-being was measured via five outcomes: percentage of low birthweight babies, infant mortality, teen mortality, high school dropout rate, and teen birth rate. Higher state-level women's status on all indicators was associated with significantly better state-level child well-being in unadjusted analyses. Several associations remained significant after adjusting for income inequality and state racial composition. Women's political participation was associated with a significantly lower percentage of low birthweight babies (p<.001) and lower teen birth rates (p<.05). Women's employment and earnings was associated with lower infant mortality (p<.05) and teen birth rates (p<.05). More economic and social autonomy for women was associated with better child outcomes on all measures (p<.01 all). Greater reproductive rights were associated with significantly lower infant mortality (p<.01). We conclude that child well-being is worse in states where women have lower political, economic, and social status. Women's status is an important aspect of children's social context which may impact their well-being. Multi-level analyses of the association between state-level women's status and child well-being are needed.

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