OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to describe the variation in risks of adverse birth outcomes across ethnic groups and socioeconomic circumstances, and to explore the evidence of mediation by socioeconomic circumstances of the effect of ethnicity on birth outcomes. SETTING: England and Wales. PARTICIPANTS: The data came from the 4.6 million singleton live births between 2006 and 2012. EXPOSURE: The main exposure was ethnic group. Socioeconomic circumstances, the hypothesised mediator, were measured using the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), an area-level measure of deprivation, based on the mother's place of residence. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcomes were birth outcomes, namely: neonatal death, infant death and preterm birth. We estimated the slope and relative indices of inequality to describe differences in birth outcomes across IMD, and the proportion of the variance in birth outcomes across ethnic groups attributable to IMD. We investigated mediation by IMD on birth outcomes across ethnic groups using structural equation modelling. RESULTS: Neonatal mortality, infant mortality and preterm birth risks were 2.1 per 1000, 3.2 per 1000 and 5.6%, respectively. Babies in the most deprived areas had 47%-129% greater risk of adverse birth outcomes than those in the least deprived areas. Minority ethnic babies had 48%-138% greater risk of adverse birth outcomes compared with white British babies. Up to a third of the variance in birth outcomes across ethnic groups was attributable to differences in IMD, and there was strong statistical evidence of an indirect effect through IMD in the effect of ethnicity on birth outcomes. CONCLUSION: There is evidence that socioeconomic circumstances could be contributing to the differences in birth outcomes across ethnic groups.
IMD, NS-SEC, area deprivation, ethnicity, infant mortality, mediation, neonatal mortality, preterm birth, socioeconomic circumstances