We investigated very preterm (VPTB) and preterm birth (PTB) risk among Hmong women relative to non-Hispanic whites and other Asian subgroups. We also examined the maternal education health gradient across subgroups.
California birth record data (2002-2004) were used to analyze 568,652 singleton births to white and Asian women. Pearson Chi-square and logistic regression were used to assess variation in maternal characteristics and VPTB/PTB risk by subgroup.
White, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Asian Indian, and Vietnamese women had 36-59 % lower odds of VPTB and 30-56 % lower odds of PTB than Hmong women. Controls for covariates did not substantially diminish these disparities. Cambodian, Filipino and Lao/Thai women's odds of VPTB were similar to that of Hmong women. But they had higher adjusted odds of PTB compared to the Hmong. There was heterogeneity in the educational gradient of PTB, with significant differences between the least and most educated women among whites, Chinese, Japanese, Asian Indians, Cambodians, and Laoians/Thais. Maternal education was not associated with PTB for Hmong, Vietnamese and Korean women, however.
Studies of Hmong infant health from the 1980s, the decade immediately following the group's mass migration to the US, found no significant differences in adverse birth outcomes between Hmong and white women. By the early 2000s, however, the disparities in VPTB and PTB between Hmong and white women, as well as between Hmong and other Asian women had become substantial. Moreover, despite gains in post-secondary education among childbearing-age Hmong women, the returns to education for the Hmong are negligible. Higher educational attainment does not confer the same health benefits for Hmong women as it does for whites and other Asian subgroups.