Volume 43 - Article 31 | Pages 929–968

An extended evaluation of the weathering hypothesis for birthweight

By Samuel Fishman

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Date received:17 Mar 2020
Date published:16 Sep 2020
Word count:5215
Keywords:birth weight, fertility, maternal age, nativity, race/ethnicity, weathering


Background: Prior weathering research finds that US-born Black women experience more rapidly deteriorating birthweight outcomes at older ages than US-born White women.

Objective: The present study extends this literature by evaluating maternal age–birthweight associations across a variety of racial/ethnic-nativity groups.

Methods: Race/ethnicity-nativity stratified average marginal effects of maternal age on low and very low birthweight are estimated using data from 2014 through 2018 US cohort natality files.

Results: Older maternal ages at birth are associated with higher probabilities of low and very low birthweight for most racial/ethnic-nativity groups. Consistent with the weathering hypothesis, birth at older maternal ages (e.g., 30‒34 or 40+) is more predictive of low and very low birthweight for US-born Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and US-born Mexican American women than for US-born Whites. In contrast, some foreign-born populations exhibit relatively weak relationships between maternal age and low birthweight, suggesting the role of healthy immigrant selection.

Contribution: Some disadvantaged racial/ethnic-nativity groups ‒ US-born Black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and US-born Mexican American women ‒ exhibit more rapid increases in the risk of low birthweight at older maternal ages than US-born White women. These patterns are consistent with the weathering hypothesis. Future research may benefit from using linked family data and sibling modeling approaches to estimate causal models of weathering.

Author's Affiliation

Samuel Fishman - Duke University, United States of America [Email]

Other articles by the same author/authors in Demographic Research

» The persistent southern disadvantage in US early life mortality, 1965‒2014
Volume 42 - Article 11

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