We estimate the extent to which upward socioeconomic mobility limits the probability that Black and White women who spent their childhoods in or near poverty will give birth to a low-birthweight baby. We used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and the 1970 US Census to complete a series of logistic regression models. We restricted multivariate analyses to female survey respondents who, at 14 years of age, were living in households in which the income-to-needs ratio did not exceed 200% of poverty.
For White women, the probability of giving birth to a low-birthweight baby decreases by 48% for every 1 unit increase in the natural logarithm of adult family income, once the effects of all other covariates are taken into account. For Black women, the relation between adult family income and the probability of low birthweight is also negative; however, this association fails to reach statistical significance. We conclude that upward socioeconomic mobility contributes to improved birth outcomes among infants born to White women who were poor as children, but the same does not hold true for their Black counterparts.