Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Public Health

Major Professor

Melinda S. Forthofer, Ph.D.


Births, Ethnic disparities, Infant health, Social determinants of health, Multilevel modeling


The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between residential segregation (the physical separation of Blacks and Whites in residential contexts) and adverse perinatal outcomes (low birth weight, preterm delivery and small for gestational age births) in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. The study determined the independent effect of the level of residential segregation on the likelihood of adverse perinatal outcomes after controlling for contextual and individual factors. The study also assessed whether the relationship between residential segregation and adverse perinatal outcomes were moderated by ethnicity and median income.The studied employed an observational, cross-sectional study design that utilized secondary data. Live birth certificates between 1999 and 2001 provided information on individual covariates and perinatal outcomes. Structural indicators of residential segregation and contextual covariates were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau. Th

e nested data structure for each birth outcome model was composed of individual, contextual, and structural data. Three-level, hierarchical generalized linear models were used to test research hypotheses.The study population consisted of non-Hispanic White and Black primaparous women between 15 and 49 years of age experiencing singleton live births delivered at less than or equal to 45 weeks gestation. The final sample consisted of 255,548 women nested within 4,360 census tracts and 63 Metropolitan or Micropolitan Statistical Areas. Residential segregation did not have a direct relationship with low birth weight, preterm delivery or small for gestational age, after controlling for other variables in multilevel models. Models testing the moderating effects of ethnicity indicated that increased Isolation decreased the risk of LBW among Black women. Several contextual --level variables and the majority of individual-level variables were significantly associated with perinatal outcome risk

.Findings indicate that effects of residential segregation may be birth outcome and ethnic group specific. Relationships between individual factors, contextual factors and adverse perinatal outcomes signal the importance of proximal factors to perinatal outcomes. There is a need for specification of a broader constellation of biological, social and spatial factors and a thorough assessment of residential preferences and experiences in order to better understand the associations between neighborhoods and perinatal outcomes.