Neighborhood disadvantage and telomere length: Results from the fragile families study

Douglas S. Massey, Brandon Wagner, Louis Donnelly, Sara McLanahan, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Irwin Garfinkel, Colter Mitchell, Daniel A. Notterman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Telomeres are repetitive nucleotide sequences located at the ends of chromosomes that protect genetic material. We use data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to analyze the relationship between exposure to spatially concentrated disadvantage and telomere length for white and black mothers. We find that neighborhood disadvantage is associated with shorter telomere length for mothers of both races. This finding highlights a potential mechanism through which the unique spatially concentrated disadvantage faced by African Americans contributes to racial health disparities. We conclude that equalizing the health and socioeconomic status of black and white Americans will be very difficult without reducing levels of residential segregation in the United States.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-42
Number of pages15
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Concentrated poverty
  • Neighborhood disadvantage
  • Segregation
  • Telomere


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