How Neighborhood Environments Attenuate the "Marriage Advantage" in Birth Outcomes among Women in the U.S.

Jennifer Buher Kane, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Studies linking social environments to racial/ethnic infant health disparities have become much more prevalent in recent years across sociological, epidemiological, and demographic research, yet no study has examined how neighborhood environments may contribute to persistent disparities observed between married and unmarried women in the U.S. This study links public-access data with restricted data from the National Survey of Family Growth (2006-8) to examine if risky neighborhood environments are more weakly related to infant health outcomes among married women compared with cohabiting or single women. In line with the buffering hypothesis, multilevel regression results indicate that mother-father relationship status is one type of interpersonal resource that differentially buffers women from the effects of living within stressful social environments. In neighborhoods characterized by high crime rates, cohabitation is more risky than in low-crime neighborhoods. This disadvantage exists above and beyond measures of a host of sociodemographic, family background, and pregnancy characteristics.

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Presented in Poster Session 4