Seven percent of newborns in the United States weigh in at less than five and one half pounds. These "low birth weight" babies face challenges that others will never know—challenges that begin with a greater risk of infant mortality and extend well into adulthood in the form of health and developmental problems. Because low birth weight is often accompanied by social risk factors such as minority racial status, low education, young maternal age, and low income, the question of causes and consequences—of precisely how biological and social factors figure into this equation—becomes especially tricky to sort out. This is the question that The Starting Gate takes up, bringing a novel perspective to the nature-nurture debate by using the starting point of birth as a lens to examine biological and social inheritance.
List of Figures
1. The Baby or the Egg? Birth Weight and the Gene-Environment Divide
2. John Henry, Black Mayors, and Silver Spoons: Race and the Inheritance of Birth Weight
3. What Money Can and Can’t Buy: Income and Infant Health
4. Is Biology Destiny? Birth Weight, Infant Mortality, and Educational Achievement
5. Reconsidering Risk: Biosocial Policy Implications
Appendix A: Data, Variables, and Methods
Appendix B: Tables
Dalton Conley is Director of the Center for Advanced Social Science Research and Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at NYU; he is also Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and Adjunct Professor of Community Medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. Kate W. Strully is a doctoral candidate at New York University. Neil G. Bennett is Professor at the Baruch School of Public Affairs and in the Department of Sociology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
"In this engagingly written work on an important topic, the authors argue, quite convincingly, that the social and biological determinants and consequences of low birth weight have not been adequately explored by social scientists or natural/life scientists."—Brian Powell, Allen D. and Polly S. Grimshaw Professor of Sociology, Indiana University
"Conley and colleagues make a major contribution to knowledge of the causes and consequences of low birth weight and draw on that knowledge to formulate public policies for prevention and intervention. The book provides for the broad field of the social determinants of health a fresh framework for research that interacts social and biological factors and health consequences into an intergenerational life course understanding of human development and health. Their work is an integrative triumph of major dimension."—Alvin R. Tarlov, M.D., Director of the Texas Institute for Society and Health, Rice University
"The Starting Gate provides a sophisticated, yet easily accessible, understanding of how biological and social factors interact across lives and generations to affect birth weight and future life chances."—David Mechanic, Rene Dubos Professor of Behavioral Science, Rutgers University