Severe housing insecurity during pregnancy: Association with adverse birth and infant outcomes

Kathryn M. Leifheit, Gabriel L. Schwartz, Craig E. Pollack, Kathryn J. Edin, Maureen M. Black, Jacky M. Jennings, Keri N. Althoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Introduction: Housing insecurity is increasingly commonplace among disadvantaged women and children. We measured the individual-and population-level impact of severe housing insecurity during pregnancy on adverse birth and infant outcomes. Methods: We analyzed data from 3428 mother–infant dyads enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a prospective cohort study representing births in 20 large U.S. cities from 1998 to 2000. Severe housing insecurity was defined as threatened eviction or homelessness during pregnancy. Outcomes included low birth weight and/or preterm birth, admission to a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or stepdown facility, extended hospitalization after delivery, and infant health and temperament. We estimated exposure–outcome associations with risk ratios adjusted for pre-pregnancy maternal sociodemographic and heath factors and calculated a population attributable fraction (PAF) of outcomes attributable to severe housing insecurity. Results: We found statistically significant associations between severe housing insecurity during pregnancy and low birth weight and/or preterm birth (risk ratio (RR] 1.73, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.28, 2.32), NICU or stepdown stay (RR 1.64, CI 1.17, 2.31), and extended hospitalization (RR 1.66, CI 1.28, 2.16). Associations between housing insecurity and infant fair or poor health (RR 2.62, CI 0.91, 7.48) and poor temperament (RR 1.52, CI 0.98, 2.34) were not statistically significant. PAF estimates ranged from 0.9–2.7%, suggesting that up to three percent of adverse birth and infant outcomes could be avoided by eliminating severe housing insecurity among low-income, pregnant women in US cities. Conclusions: Results suggest that housing insecurity during pregnancy shapes neonatal and infant health in disadvantaged urban families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8659
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 2 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


  • Birth weight
  • Eviction
  • Homeless persons
  • Housing
  • Infant health
  • Neonatal intensive care units
  • Premature birth


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