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Keywords:

  • pregnancy outcomes;
  • racial disparities in health;
  • occupational characteristics;
  • work organization

Abstract

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*NET were 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. Am. J. Ind. Med. 53:153–162 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.