Robert Hummer, Department of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin

This study was part of a larger study on the association among adverse birth outcomes, social risk factors, and child health and developmental outcomes in the U.S. The role of Dr. Padilla was to broaden the conceptual framework of the study to develop research hypotheses that address the role of Hispanics in the project. In particular, she investigated three aspects of the question “How does Hispanic origin affect the relationship between adverse birth outcomes and subsequent child health and development?” The three major aspects incorporated into the conceptual model were membership in specific Hispanic subgroups, immigration and generational status, and cultural practices. The study was based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth-Child Data, which contains longitudinal information on child health and developmental outcomes several years beyond birth, maternal health and other information on the mother’s pregnancy, and an oversample of Hispanics.

Published papers focused on cognitive outcomes. The first paper included an investigation of the race/ethnic differences in two aspects of child development: math and reading test scores. More specifically, this paper examined the effect of birth weight and social factors on the long-term developmental outcomes of Mexican American, white, and black children aged 6-14. Our analysis demonstrated large race/ethnic disparities in developmental outcomes such that black and Mexican American children scored below non-Hispanic white children on both the math and reading tests. This paper is published in Demography.

The second paper investigated whether birth weight has a differential effect for language developmental outcomes in early childhood for Mexican American children in comparison to their black and non-Hispanic white counterparts. The results suggest that the relative similarity between rates of low birth weight between the white and Mexican American populations are not reflected in their development scores at young ages. The average score for Mexican American children is much closer to that of black children than to white children. In addition, multivariate analyses of the total sample and separate models for Mexican American, white, and black children show that although birth weight is not a powerful predictor of language development, it has a statistically significant effect. More importantly, however, children who have a history of living in poverty, children whose parents are immigrants, and children who have had less contact with primary health care have the lowest language development scores. This paper is published in Social Forces.


Padilla, Yolanda C., Robert A. Hummer, Jason Boardman, and Marilyn Espitia. (2002). Is the Mexican American “Epidemiological Paradox” Advantage at Birth Maintained Through Early Childhood? Social Forces, 80 (3), 1101-1123.

Boardman, Jason, Robert A. Hummer, Yolanda C. Padilla, and Dan Powers. (2002). Low Birth Weight, Social Factors, and Developmental Outcomes among Children in the United States. Demography, 39 (2): 353-368.