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Keywords:

  • Fetal distress;
  • Hurricane Andrew;
  • maternal exposure;
  • natural experiment

Logistic regression and spatial analytic techniques are used to model fetal distress risk as a function of maternal exposure to Hurricane Andrew. First, monthly time series compare the proportion of infants born distressed in hurricane affected and unaffected areas. Second, resident births are analyzed in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, before, during, and after Hurricane Andrew. Third, resident births are analyzed in all Florida locales with 100,000 or more persons, comparing exposed and unexposed gravid females. Fourth, resident births are analyzed along Hurricane Andrew's path from southern Florida to northeast Mississippi. Results show that fetal distress risk increases significantly with maternal exposure to Hurricane Andrew in second and third trimesters, adjusting for known risk factors. Distress risk also correlates with the destructive path of Hurricane Andrew, with higher incidences of fetal distress found in areas of highest exposure intensity. Hurricane exposed African-American mothers were more likely to birth distressed infants. The policy implications of in utero costs of natural disaster exposure are discussed.