Though disparities in birth weight by race/ethnicity have been extensively reported in the United States, few studies have systematically investigated factors attributing to its variability. For 10,638,415 singleton infants born during 2009-2012 in the United States, we examined birth weight differences among 14 races and ethnicities (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Black, American Indian, Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Hawaiian, Guamanian, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban), after sequentially adjusting for maternal, socio-economic and behavioral factors. Average birthweight of non-Hispanic white infants was 3381 g, while for other races/ethnicities birth weight ranged from being 289 g smaller in Japanese to 126 g larger in Samoan infants. Factors explaining differences of more than 50 grams in birth weight compared to white infants were: gestational age for black infants, height and body mass index for all Asian and Samoan mothers, and gestational weight gain for Japanese mothers. Difference in maternal age, parity, socioeconomic and behavioral characteristics did not account for significant portion of birthweight variations for any race. Our findings suggest that differences in maternal anthropometrics, gestational weight gain, and preterm birth rate, but not in maternal age, parity, socioeconomic or behavioral characteristics contribute to racial/ethnic differences in birthweight.
Social and anthropometric factors explaining racial/ethnical differences in birth weight in the United States.