Analysing gaps in child health in the UK: a “weathering” hypothesis perspective

Wendy Sigle-Rushton, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Alice Goisis, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

It is well established that ethnic minority women are more likely to have poorer birth outcomes than white women. U.S. research has also demonstrated that the excess risk of poor birth outcomes for Black women compared to White women tends to increase with the age of the mother. Researchers have suggested that this age pattern may be due to Black women’s greater risk of exposure to cumulative health disadvantages, something referred to as the “weathering hypothesis”. In the U.K., an ethnically diverse country with high levels of racial segregation and disadvantage, gaps in child health have not been analysed through a “weathering” hypothesis perspective. Conversely, sociobiological research in the U.K. has argued that an early timing of childbearing reflects a coherent strategic response for individuals living in disadvantaged contexts characterized by fewer guarantees of a healthy future. This perspective has not, however, shown whether age gradients in child health follow different trajectories for individuals living in relatively disadvantaged and advantaged areas. By using data from the ONS Longitudinal Study, this paper intends to contribute to understanding gaps in child health in the U.K. This is done by introducing the “weathering” hypothesis perspective to the U.K. context and by extending the sociobiological one which is, as far as child health is concerned, limited in scope. Results reveal patterns consistent with the “weathering” hypothesis and to a limited extent according to sociobiological arguments. Moreover, results suggest that ethnic minority status could represent an added and modifying burden in the association between exposure to social inequality and (child) health.

Presented in Session 58: Infant and maternal health/mortality