Asthma prevalence in the United States has been reported to be higher in minority groups such as Blacks and Hispanics. Because a disproportionate number of individuals from such minority groups are of low socioeconomic status (SES), it is unclear how much of the racial/ethnic differences in asthma prevalence is related to low SES. We investigated the effect of SES on the relationship between race/ethnicity and asthma prevalence in a cohort of families with a history of asthma or allergies from the Boston, Massachusetts area. From 499 families, a cohort of 998 parents and 307 children was identified. We used total yearly family income (<$50,000 vs. > or = $50, 000), highest level of education (< or = high school vs. > or = college), and residence in high-poverty areas vs. low-poverty areas as measures of SES. Yearly family income <$50,000, < or = high school education, and residence in high poverty areas were all associated with increased risks for asthma in both cohorts. In the parental cohort, Blacks and Hispanics (OR = 2.1, 95% CI = 1.5, 2.8; and OR = 2.2, 95% CI = 1.5, 3.2, respectively) were at greater risk for asthma than Whites. In the cohort of children, Black and Hispanic children (OR = 2.9, 95% CI = 1.0, 8.0; and OR = 5.3, 95% CI = 1.6, 17.5, respectively) were also at increased risk for asthma. When the three measures of SES were included in the multivariable models, the risks associated with Blacks and Hispanics decreased in both cohorts: OR = 1.4, 95% CI = 0.9, 2.0; and OR = 1.6, 95% CI = 1.0, 2. 6, respectively, for the parents; and OR = 0.8, 95% CI = 0.2, 3.0; and 2.5, 95% CI = 0.5, 11.7, respectively, for the children. We conclude that a large proportion of the racial/ethnic differences in asthma prevalence in our study is explained by factors related to income, area of residence, and level of education.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.