Gary Payne

Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Rural Sociology


Conflict and social disorganization theories were combined to explain variations in county rates of low birthweight in two northern and two southern states: Minnesota and Iowa, and Louisiana and North Carolina. Conflict theory was used to focus on the unfavorable policies and economic circumstances which trigger social disorganization and isolation in the general economic and social characteristics of families. Social disorganization theory was used to posit that the resulting deterioration would disrupt the natality environment and cause higher rates of low birthweight. A cross-sectional design using census information and state health statistics was used to test these propositions. The analysis revealed that structural theories are applicable to the analysis of low birthweight rates at the county level. In the northern counties, four variables were identified through multiple regression analysis as significant predictors of low birthweight: per capita welfare spending, teen births, violent crime and maternal education of less than 12 years. In the southern counties, where low birthweight rates were approximately double that found in the north, percent black and out-of-wedlock births were identified through multiple regression analysis as the best predictors of low birthweight. Approximately 56% of the variation of low birthweight rates in the southern counties were predicted by these two variables.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Birth weight, Low Social stratification Social structure



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University