The risk of hypertension and related target organ damage is much greater in African Americans than in Caucasians. The risk of hypertensive end-stage renal disease is approximately five-fold higher in African Americans. Many studies have shown that low birth weight is strongly associated with increased risk of hypertension, stroke, and myocardial infarction. However, until recently the relationship between birth weight and hypertension-related diseases was not clearly established in African Americans. Moreover, it was also unclear if low birth weight in humans heightened the risk for end-stage renal disease. This is a critical gap in the literature, since low birth weight occurs at twice the rate in African Americans as among Caucasians. We identified a significant relationship between end-stage renal disease and low birth weight in both African Americans and Caucasians. Given the higher rates of low birth weight in African Americans, differences in fetal development may, therefore, contribute to the racial disparity in end-stage renal disease. Continued study of the biological factors linking early development with later risk of hypertension-related diseases is important and may shed light on racial disparities in health outcomes. (c)2001 by Le Jacq Communications, Inc.