Disparities in hypertension between African Americans and non-Hispanic whites have been well-documented, yet an explanation for this persistent disparity remains elusive. Since African Americans and non-Hispanic white Americans tend to live in very different social environments, it is not known whether race disparities in hypertension would persist if non-Hispanic whites and African Americans were exposed to similar social environments. We compared data from the Exploring Health Disparities in Integrated Communities-SWB (EHDIC-SWB) Study with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2004 to determine if race disparities in hypertension in the USA were attenuated in EHDIC-SWB, which is based in a racially integrated community without race differences in income. Hypertension was defined as systolic blood pressure (BP) > or = 140 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) and/or diastolic BP > or = 90 mmHg or respondent's report of taking antihypertensive medications. Of the 1408 study participants, 835 (59.3%) were African American, 628 (44.6%) were men, and the mean age was 40.6 years. After adjustment for potential confounders, various analytic models from EHDIC-SWB and NHANES 1999-2004 data, we found the race odds ratio was between 29.0% and 34% smaller in the EHDIC-SWB sample. We conclude that social and environmental exposures explained a substantial proportion of the race difference in hypertension.