Objectives: We studied obesity in African American women in relationship to their socioeconomic position (SEP) in childhood and adulthood.
Methods: On the basis of parents' occupation, we classified 679 women in the Pitt County (North Carolina) Study into low and high childhood SEP. Women's education, occupation, employment status, and home ownership were used to classify them into low and high adulthood SEP. Four life-course SEP categories resulted: low childhood/low adulthood, low childhood/high adulthood, high childhood/low adulthood, and high childhood/high adulthood.
Results: The odds of obesity were twice as high among women from low versus high childhood SEP backgrounds, and 25% higher among women of low versus high adulthood SEP. Compared to that in women of high SEP in both childhood and adulthood, the odds of obesity doubled for low/low SEP women, were 55% higher for low/high SEP women, and were comparable for high/low SEP women.
Conclusions: Socioeconomic deprivation in childhood was a strong predictor of adulthood obesity in this community sample of African American women. Findings are consistent with both critical period and cumulative burden models of life-course socioeconomic deprivation and long-term risk for obesity in African American women.