Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Racial Residential Segregation and Black Low Birth Weight, 1970-2010

Niemesh, Gregory and Shester, Katharine (2019): Racial Residential Segregation and Black Low Birth Weight, 1970-2010.

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The black-white gap in low birth weight in the United States remains large and mostly unexplained. A large literature links segregation to adverse black birth outcomes but, to the best of our knowledge, no studies explore how this relationship has changed over time. We explore the relationship between racial residential segregation on black and white birth weights for the period 1970-2010. We find a negative effect of segregation on black birth outcomes that only emerges after 1980. We explore the potential pathways through which segregation influenced black birth outcomes and how these mechanisms may have changed over time. Measures for maternal socioeconomic status and behaviors accounts for 35 to 40 percent of the full segregation effect between 1990 and 2010. Single-motherhood and mother's education, and unobservable factors that load onto these variables, play important and increasing roles. After controlling for MSA and parent characteristics, segregation explains 21-25 percent of the raw black-white gap in low birth weight between 1990 and 2010.

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