Discoveries and Data: Exposures and Risk Factors


Birth defects occur in families of all social and economic backgrounds—we’ve found mothers of different education levels have similar overall risks.

However, studying social and economic factors is often a useful first step in uncovering origins of specific conditions. These characteristics may serve as pointers to other clues such as: race/ethnicity (genetic and cultural factors), typical health behaviors (vitamin use) or proximity to environmental conditions in the neighborhood (industrial emissions).

The California Birth Defects Monitoring Program has evaluated lower socioeconomic status (SES) and neighborhood characteristics for neural tube defects.

bullet-5281398 The more indicators of low SES (such as lower income, less education), the higher the risk for neural tube defects.
bullet-5281398 Women with 4-5 indicators of low SES had a 3 times higher risk.
bullet-5281398 Residing in a low-SES neighborhood increased risk as well.


Research evaluating socioeconomic conditions and other birth defects is in progress.