Relative deprivation and child health in the USA

Aparna Lhila, Kosali I. Simon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Some recent papers have suggested that relative deprivation could be negatively related to health through psychosocial stress and related behaviors. While there is a large literature on the association between absolute deprivation, i.e., income, and child health, little is known about the association between relative deprivation and child health. This paper asks: controlling for a measure of absolute deprivation, is a mother's relative deprivation related to infant health and maternal health behavior? There are many limitations regarding our measures and methods, and we interpret our results only as associations. Using US 2001 Natality Detail data, we find that pregnant women of lower socioeconomic status relative to other expectant mothers in their Metropolitan Statistical Area give birth to very slightly lighter babies and are more likely to smoke. A back-of-the envelope calculation shows the magnitude of the association we observe between relative deprivation and birthweight is close to what medical studies would predict if the probability of prenatal tobacco use were to increase by the amount we estimate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)777-785
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Birthweight
  • Inequality
  • Infant health
  • Maternal smoking
  • Prenatal tobacco use
  • Relative deprivation
  • Stress
  • USA


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