Data spanning three decades illustrate racial disparities in likelihood of obesity

Celia C. Lo, William Ash-Houchen, Heather M. Gerling, Tyrone Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Obesity rates have risen significantly in recent decades, with underprivileged Americans associated with higher rates of the condition. Risks associated with obesity, furthermore, appear unequally distributed across different racial/ethnic groups, according to the literature. The present study examined racial disparities in obesity as a function of socioeconomic factors, using a sample of American adults from a 32-year longitudinal study. We accounted for the time factor as we evaluated obesity’s associations with selected socioeconomic factors; we also examined race/ethnicity’s moderating role in obesity–socioeconomic status associations over time. We used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) to obtain a final sample of 118,749 person-waves for analysis. A subsample of person-waves numbering 65,702 represented data from White respondents; one numbering 31,618 represented data from Black respondents; and one numbering 21,429 represented data from Hispanic respondents. Needing to consider repeated measures of the same variables over time, we chose generalized estimated equations (GEE) for use in the data analysis. Speaking generally, the obtained results suggested that for the two smaller subsamples, minority race/ethnicity could have introduced disadvantages that helped explain links between obesity and race/ethnicity. Results also showed that White–Black disparities in obesity have widened slightly in the past three decades, while White–Hispanic disparities have stabilized during the same time period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)686-701
Number of pages16
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - 3 Jul 2020


  • Racial disparities
  • multiple disadvantage model
  • obesity
  • social status factors
  • socioeconomic factors


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