Possible causes of socioeconomic and ethnic differences in seat belt use among high school students

Accid Anal Prev. 1999 Sep;31(5):485-96. doi: 10.1016/s0001-4575(99)00004-4.


This study has assessed seat belt use and factors which may influence seat belt use among high school students from three types of schools. The inner city schools had high proportions of African American and Hispanic American students from low income families, whereas the middle class school and private schools had high proportions of non-Hispanic white students from middle class families with college educated parents. Students from the inner city schools reported less seat belt use than students from the middle class school or private schools. Our analyses evaluated several hypotheses concerning possible reasons why inner city youth had lower rates of seat belt use. In accord with the social influences hypothesis, inner city youth reported lower rates of parental seat belt use and less often being told by parents to use their seat belts, and our regression results indicate that less parental modeling and encouragement of seat belt use was an important cause of inner city youth's lower rates of seat belt use. Our other hypotheses received weaker support, but we did find evidence for two hypothesized differences in attitudes which influence seat belt use. Specifically, inner city youth were more likely to agree with the statement, 'there is no point in wearing seat belts since you have no control over your fate or destiny', and inner city youth attributed less importance to safety concerns as a motivation for seat belt use. These attitudes appeared to contribute to lower rates of seat belt use by inner city youth.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pennsylvania
  • Seat Belts / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*