Socioeconomic inequality of obesity in the United States: do gender, age, and ethnicity matter?

Soc Sci Med. 2004 Mar;58(6):1171-80. doi: 10.1016/s0277-9536(03)00288-0.


This study introduces the concentration index (CI) to assess socioeconomic inequality in the distribution of obesity among American adults aged 18-60 years old. The CI provides a summary measure of socioeconomic inequality, and enabled comparisons across gender, age, and ethnicity. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, 1988-1994 (NHANES III) were used. The degree of socioeconomic inequality in obesity varied considerably across gender, age, and ethnic groups. Among women, we found a stronger, inverse association between socioeconomic status (SES) and obesity compared with men, as well as greater socioeconomic inequality among middle-aged adults (41-49) compared to other age groups. Consistent with previous studies, we found remarkable ethnic differences in the relationship between SES and obesity. Although the extant literature documented a higher prevalence of obesity among minorities than in whites, our results presented a lower socioeconomic inequality in obesity within minority groups. Our analyses suggested that gender, age, and ethnicity could be important factors on socioeconomic inequality in obesity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Minority Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Models, Statistical
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Sex Distribution
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data