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Are the poverty histories of neighbourhoods associated with psychosocial well-being among a representative sample of California mothers? An observational study
  1. Katrina M Walsemann1,
  2. Stephanie Child2,
  3. Katherine Heck3,
  4. Claire Margerison-Zilko4,
  5. Paula Braveman3,
  6. Kristen Marchi3,
  7. Catherine Cubbin5
  1. 1Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, USA
  2. 2Department of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA
  3. 3Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  4. 4Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA
  5. 5School of Social Work, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Katrina M Walsemann, Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior, University of South Carolina, Columbia, 915 Greene Street, Room 554, Columbia, SC 29208, USA; kwalsema{at}


Background We examine the association between the poverty histories of neighbourhoods and three indicators of psychosocial well-being—depressive symptoms, sense of control and number of stressors—in an observational study of mothers of young children in California. We also consider if length of residence in a neighbourhood moderates the association between neighbourhood poverty history and psychosocial well-being.

Methods Data come from the Geographic Research on Well-being (GROW) Study, a subsample of mothers who completed the population-based California Maternal and Infant Health Assessment in 2003–2007 and were reinterviewed in 2012–2013. Poverty histories of neighbourhoods were constructed using the Neighbourhood Change Database (1970–2000) and American Community Survey (2005–2009). The analytic sample included 2726 women from GROW residing in 1906 census tracts.

Results Adjusting for individual socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, women living in neighbourhoods where poverty decreased over the 40-year period had lower odds of depressive symptoms and a greater sense of control than women living in long-term, low-poverty neighbourhoods. Women living in long-term high-poverty neighbourhoods or in neighbourhoods where poverty increased over the 40-year period reported lower sense of control than women living in long-term, low-poverty neighbourhoods and these effects were modified by length of time living in the neighbourhood. No significant effects of neighbourhood poverty histories were found for number of stressors.

Conclusions Policies aimed at reducing neighbourhood poverty may improve mothers' psychosocial well-being.

  • Neighborhood/place

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  • Contributors KW and CC conceived the study. KH extracted and analysed the data. KW and SC drafted the manuscript. All authors critically reviewed the manuscript and approved the final version.

  • Funding This work was supported by a grant from the American Cancer Society (RSGT-11-010-01-CPPB) to CC and by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (5 R24 HD042849) to the Population Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval GROW was approved by the Institutional Review Boards at the University of Texas at Austin, the University of California, San Francisco and the California Department of Public Health; all participants gave informed consent.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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