Material Hardship and Indoor Allergen Exposure among Low-Income, Urban, Minority Children with Persistent Asthma

Nicholas A. Jabre, Corinne A. Keet, Meredith McCormack, Roger Peng, Susan Balcer-Whaley, Elizabeth C. Matsui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traditional measures of socioeconomic status (SES) are associated with asthma morbidity, but their specific contributions are unclear. Increased exposure to indoor allergens among low SES children is an important consideration. Material hardship, a concept describing poor access to basic goods and services, may explain the relationship between low SES and indoor allergen exposure, and thereby, the increased risk of asthma morbidity. We sought to (i) describe the specific hardships experienced by low-Income, urban, minority children with asthma and indoor allergen sensitization and (ii) determine if material hardship is associated with indoor allergen exposure in this population. We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of children undergoing the baseline assessment for a clinical trial of home environmental modification. Participants were scored in five domains of material hardship. Domain scores were assigned based on caregiver responses to a questionnaire and were summed to generate a total material hardship score. Linear regression was used to examine the relationship between material hardship scores and bedroom floor concentrations of five common indoor allergens. Participants experienced high levels of material hardship in each of the five domains, with 33% not having access to a car, 35% not being able to pay utility bills, and 28% not being able to pay rent in the past year. Each one-point increase in material hardship was associated with an increase in cockroach allergen of 16.2% (95% CI 9.4%, 24.6%) and an increase in mouse allergen of 9.4% (95% CI 1.0%, 18.5%). After adjusting for traditional measures of SES, including household income, health insurance type, caregiver education, and caregiver employment status, the association between material hardship and cockroach allergen, but not mouse allergen, remained. These data suggest that a significant proportion of families of low-income, minority children with asthma may experience material hardship, and that they may be at greater risk of cockroach allergen exposure than their peers with similar income, but without material hardship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1017-1026
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Community Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Childhood asthma
  • Cockroach
  • Indoor allergens
  • Material hardship
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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