Racial and ethnic disparities in low birth weight delivery associated with maternal occupational characteristics

John D. Meyer, Nicholas Warren, Susan Reisine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Objectives Work characteristics and maternal education have both been associated with low birth weight (LBW) delivery. We sought to examine the relative contribution of these two factors to LBW delivery and determine whether ethnic/racial differentials in educational attainment and work characteristics might play a role in well-described disparities in LBW. Methods Scores for work substantive complexity (SC) derived from the O *NETwere imputed to maternal occupation for Connecticut singleton births in 2000. Risks for LBW were estimated separately for black, Hispanic, and white mothers using logistic regression controlling for maternal covariates. Results Using white mothers as a referent, working is associated with reduced LBW risk in black mothers compared to those not in work (OR 2.06 vs. 3.07). LBW in working black women was strongly associated with less that a high school education (OR 4.80, 95% CI 1.68-13.7), and with low work SC in blacks in those with a college education or greater (OR 4.48, 95% CI 1.24-16.2). Examination of work SC scores, controlling for age and educational level, showed lower values for blacks; increased work SC was seen in Hispanics after adjustment for lower educational attainment. A decrease in risk for LBW was seen in black mothers, compared with whites, as work SC increased. By contrast, college-educated black mothers had a greater risk for LBW than those with high school or some college education. Conclusions Maternal employment and work in a job with greater SC were associated with a reduced risk of LBW in black mothers. Improved LBW risk was also seen with employment in Hispanics. Low work SC in those with higher educational attainment was strongly associated with LBW in blacks, but not whites or Hispanics. Education/work mismatch may play a role in racial disparities in birth outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-162
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Occupational characteristics
  • Pregnancy outcomes
  • Racial disparities in health
  • Work organization


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