This report examines the wintertime vitamin D and PTH status of 308 participants in the Boston Low Income Elderly Osteoporosis Study of noninstitutionalized low income elderly men and women (age, 64-100 yr) living in subsidized housing in Boston, MA. Twenty-one percent of the 136 black subjects and 11% of the 110 whites had very low plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25OHD) concentrations (<25 nmol/L), and 73% of the blacks and 35% of the whites had 25OHD concentrations less than 50 nmol/L. The mean 25OHD levels of the smaller Hispanic and Asian subsets were generally similar to those of the white subjects. In addition to race, significant predictors of 25OHD included vitamin D intake (positive association) and smoking (inverse association), but not sex or age. Low 25OHD concentrations were associated with increased PTH and reduced serum calcium. The PTH level in the black subjects was substantially higher than that in the white subjects, and this difference was only partially explained by the racial difference in 25OHD. Elderly individuals who live in northern areas, particularly African-Americans, should be strongly encouraged to increase their vitamin D intake, especially in winter.