Evidence on the difference in health at birth between Roma and non-Roma is scarce. We explored ethnic differences in average birth weight and average gestational age, as well as the likelihood of low birth weight and the likelihood of preterm birth between Roma and non-Roma children in Hungary in the period 1981 to 1985. Our main analysis uses the population of birth records linked to the national census with an ethnic marker and covers 30 years between 1980 and 2010. We complement this analysis linking birth records to a 7 percent sample with an ethnic marker going to 2015. We show large gaps in all indicators, with a narrowing of the gap in absolute terms but not in relative terms. Roma mothers have been twice as likely to give birth to babies with low birth weight and before the 37th week. Standard decompositions show that at least 80 percent of the gaps are explained by socioeconomic factors, and education alone explains more than half.
Published in a peer-reviewed journal of the Population Council.