Obesity among US urban preschool children: relationships to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006 Jun;160(6):578-84. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.160.6.578.


Objectives: To determine whether there are racial/ethnic differences in the prevalence of obesity among preschool children and to determine whether these differences are explained by socioeconomic factors.

Design: Cross-sectional assessment.

Setting: Twenty large US cities, from 2001 to 2003.

Participants: Of the 4898 children enrolled at birth in the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study, we analyzed data for the 2452 who, at the age of 3 years, had their height and weight measured during a maternal survey.

Main exposures: Three socioeconomic indicators were the main exposures-maternal education, household income, and children's food security status, as assessed by the US Household Food Security Survey Module.

Main outcome measure: Obesity, defined as a body mass index at the 95th percentile or higher for age and sex.

Results: Of the mothers, 41.0% had education beyond high school, 52.9% of households had an income above the federal poverty threshold, and 79.5% of the children were food secure. The prevalence of obesity was 25.8% among Hispanics (any race), 16.2% among blacks, and 14.8% among whites. Compared with whites, the odds of obesity were significantly higher in Hispanics (odds ratio, 2.00; 95% confidence interval, 1.46-2.73), but not in blacks (odds ratio, 1.10; 95% confidence interval, 0.82-1.48). Neither of these odds ratios changed meaningfully after adjusting for all 3 socioeconomic indicators (Hispanics: odds ratio, 1.86 [95% confidence interval, 1.33-2.60]; and blacks: odds ratio, 1.07 [95% confidence interval, 0.78-1.47]).

Conclusion: In a sample of preschool children drawn from 20 large US cities, the high prevalence of obesity among Hispanics relative to blacks or whites was not explained by racial/ethnic differences in maternal education, household income, or food security.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnicity
  • Food Preferences
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Mothers
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Racial Groups
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urban Population