Preterm birth rate is declining among the Blacks. Improvement in their economic circumstances have contributed to the trend. Still a lot more remains to be done, say researchers from Maryland.
Macroeconomic improvements have been posited as an explanation of the decline in the Black preterm birth rate during the 1990s.
So the Maryland research assessed whether decreasing unemployment explained the decline in preterm, low birth weight births (PT-LBW) for Black women.
The study was confined to non-Hispanic Black women ages 18 and over during 1990-2001 and who were neither married nor were in a relationship and sought to examine PT-LBW trends by level of social advantage (approximated by education and marital status). The impact of the state-level unemployment rate in the first and second trimester of pregnancy was evaluated in multiple logistic regression models.
During the 1990s, PT-LBW declined 11% among disadvantaged (unmarried, less than high school educated) Black women. Although the unemployment rate and PT-LBW were positively related, decreases in unemployment did not explain the decline in PT-LBW. Instead, improvements in prenatal care utilization and smoking behavior largely accounted for the temporal trend.
Macroeconomic improvements, measured by unemployment, only marginally contributed to the Black PT-LBW trend in the 1990s, it was concluded. To effect further reductions, future studies should investigate other possible determinants of the proximate behavioral changes that did explain the trend (e.g., Earned Income Tax Credit expansions, increased, cigarette taxes/smoking legislation), say Ashley H. Schempf, PhD, Office of Epidemiology, Policy and Evaluation, Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, and Sandra L. Decker,Division of Health Care Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, The findings have been published in the Annals of Epidemiology.