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Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2018 Sep;32(5):412-419. doi: 10.1111/ppe.12482. Epub 2018 Jul 16.

Life-course neighbourhood opportunity and racial-ethnic disparities in risk of preterm birth.

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Environmental Health Investigations Branch, California Department of Public Health, Richmond, CA, USA.
School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA.
Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, CA, USA.
Sequoia Foundation, La Jolla, CA, USA.



Neighbourhood opportunity, measured by poverty, income and deprivation, has been associated with preterm birth, however little is known about the contribution of early-life and life-course neighbourhood opportunity to preterm birth risk and racial-ethnic disparities. We examined maternal early-life and adult neighbourhood opportunity in relation to risk of preterm birth and racial-ethnic disparities in a population-based cohort of women under age 30.


We linked census tract poverty data to 2 generations of California births from 1982-2011 for 403 315 white, black, or Latina mothers-infant pairs. We estimated the risk of preterm birth, and risk difference (RD) comparing low opportunity (≥20% poverty) in early life or adulthood to high opportunity using targeted maximum likelihood estimation.


At each time point, low opportunity was related to increased preterm birth risk compared to higher opportunity neighbourhoods for white, black and Latina mothers (RDs 0.3-0.7%). Compared to high opportunity at both time points, risk differences were generally highest for sustained low opportunity (RD 1.5, 1.3, and 0.7% for white, black and Latina mothers, respectively); risk was elevated with downward mobility (RD 0.7, 1.3, and 0.4% for white, black and Latina mothers, respectively), and with upward mobility only among black mothers (RD 1.2%). The black-white preterm birth disparity was reduced by 22% under high life-course opportunity.


Early-life and sustained exposure to residential poverty is related to increased PTB risk, particularly among black women, and may partially explain persistent black-white disparities.


African Americans; Latina Americans; poverty; pregnancy; preterm birth/epidemiology; social mobility

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