Babies, Bigotry and 9/11

By Richard Morin
Thursday, March 23, 2006; Page A02

The ugly wave of anti-Arab feelings immediately after
Sept. 11, 2001, may have been responsible for a sharp
increase in the incidence of premature and
low-birth-weight babies born to women of Arab descent
in the United States in the months that followed the
terrorist attacks.

The evidence is circumstantial but compelling,
epidemiologist Diane S. Lauderdale of the University
of Chicago says in the latest issue of Demography.

Other researchers studying black women previously have
found that stress caused by discrimination boosted
production of certain hormones to levels harmful to a
developing fetus. To find out whether anti-Arab
feelings after 9/11 produced a similar effect in
expectant Arab or Arab American mothers, Lauderdale
turned to birth records collected from 2000 to 2002 in
California, where reported hate crimes tripled after
the terrorist strikes, mostly because of anti-Arab and
anti-Muslim incidents.

Lauderdale identified more than 15,000 mothers with
distinctive Arab last names. She found that those
women who gave birth six months after 9/11 were 34
percent more likely have a low-birth-weight baby than
those who gave birth in the same six-month period a
year earlier. Post-9/11 babies also were 50 percent
more likely to be born prematurely.

She also found that babies with distinctively Arab
first names as well as last names -- suggesting that
their parents were either more recent arrivals or less
assimilated -- were twice as likely to be underweight
after 9/11.

Significantly, there was no change in the rate of
either premature births or low-birth-weight babies
among other women during the same time periods.


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