Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



About three percent of all infants are born with a congenital defect each year ranging from minor variants to life threatening abnormalities. The investigation and treatment of these problems is both costly and emotionally trying for all involved. Finding their origins is a complex process. Birth defects create the ultimate mystery in terms of trying to tease out the various influences created by the environment of both the infant and the mother. Two genetically different individuals are simultaneously affected both by their individual makeup and by the outside world impacting the air they breathe, the food they eat, and the various stressors both big and small that are part of the world they live in. The availability of birth certificate data allows researchers to begin the process of sorting out the factors linked with birth defects. This dissertation employs data from 2005 to 2008 for live births occurring in the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, cluster analysis, spatial-temporal analysis, geographically weighted regression, and multilevel modeling were employed for the purpose of producing a baseline picture of the area in regard to the locations of mothers giving birth to infants with birth defects, the types and rates of those birth defects, and their correlates. The Baton Rouge MSA proved to be typical in terms of rates of birth defects worldwide, however there were areas which exceeded expected overall rates and some clustering of certain types of defects. Heart defects and hypospadias rates were slightly above anticipated percentages predicted by The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Temporal analysis revealed increases in rates of several types of birth defects in 2006 and 2007 but there were not enough years to analyze these rates statistically. Analysis of correlates did not reveal any models which could be used to impact rates in the future. However, this project provides baseline data on types and rates of birth defects and information on the best locations for services to affected families along with multiple opportunities for possible preventative efforts and future investigations of this area.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Leitner, Michael