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Am J Public Health. 2015 Jun;105(6):1174-80. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302441. Epub 2015 Apr 16.

Beyond the cross-sectional: neighborhood poverty histories and preterm birth.

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Claire Margerison-Zilko is with the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Michigan State University, East Lansing. Catherine Cubbin is with the School of Social Work and the Population Research Center, University of Texas, Austin. Jina Jun is with the Health Policy Research Department, Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, Seoul, Korea. Kristen Marchi, Kathryn Fingar, and Paula Braveman are with the Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.



We examined associations between longitudinal neighborhood poverty trajectories and preterm birth (PTB).


Using data from the Neighborhood Change Database (1970-2000) and the American Community Survey (2005-2009), we categorized longitudinal trajectories of poverty for California neighborhoods (i.e., census tracts). Birth data included 23 291 singleton California births from the Maternal and Infant Health Assessment (2003-2009). We estimated associations (adjusted for individual-level covariates) between PTB and longitudinal poverty trajectories and compared these to associations using traditional, cross-sectional measures of poverty.


Compared to neighborhoods with long-term low poverty, those with long-term high poverty and those that experienced increasing poverty early in the study period had 41% and 37% increased odds of PTB (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.18, 1.69 and 1.09, 1.72, respectively). High (compared with low) cross-sectional neighborhood poverty was not associated with PTB (odds ratio = 1.08; 95% CI = 0.91, 1.28).


Neighborhood poverty histories may contribute to an understanding of perinatal health and should be considered in future research.

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