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Neighborhood Context and Migrant Selectivity: An Empirical Analysis of the Nativity Advantage in Black Birth Outcomes, California 2007 - 2010

By Bridgette Emefa Blebu


Background: Non-Hispanic black women remain at high risk for adverse birth outcomes including preterm birth and low birth weight. However, black immigrant women do not exhibit the same disparities compared to their US-born counterparts. This dissertation examines whether two theoretical explanations for immigrant health advantages: protective immigrant neighborhoods and migrant selection, contribute to the immigrant advantage in black birth outcomes. Methods: In chapter two, I examine the spatial distribution of three neighborhood attributes: black immigrant co-ethnic density, black racial concentration, and neighborhood deprivation, and then conduct an ecological analysis using OLS regression to examine whether these neighborhood attributes are associated with the proportion of black immigrant preterm births. In chapter three, I use logistic regression with robust standard errors to assess whether nativity differences in preterm birth risk persist after adjusting for each neighborhood attribute and maternal characteristics. In chapter four, I use OLS regression to assess whether migrant selection contributes to nativity differences in infant birth weight. The migrant selection hypothesis argues that immigrants are selected on characteristics that make more likely to migrate compared to those left behind in the country of origin and that these characteristics contribute to their above average post-migration health. To test this, I compute three measures of migrant selection: BMI selectivity, height selectivity and migration likelihood, leveraging the Nigerian Demographic Health Survey data and a subset of California births to Nigerian immigrant women. Results: I find that tract-level immigrant co-ethnic density, black racial concentration, and neighborhood deprivation are not associated with black immigrant preterm birth, nor do they explain differences in preterm birth risk between US- and foreign-born black women. However, migration likelihood explains a significant portion of the nativity advantage in infant birth weight after adjusting for maternal characteristics. Conclusion: My findings indicate that there is little association between tract-level neighborhood context and black immigrant birth outcomes in California, a distinct finding compared to existing research in the Northeast. Further migrant selection, when measured as migration likelihood, may be a more robust predictor of the nativity differential in infant birth weight among Nigerian immigrant and US-born black women in California

Topics: Public health
Publisher: eScholarship, University of California
Year: 2019
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