Prevalence of obesity among US preschool children in different racial and ethnic groups

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Apr;163(4):344-8. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.18.


Objective: To estimate the prevalence of obesity in 5 major racial/ethnic groups in 4-year-old US children.

Design: Cross-sectional secondary data analysis.

Setting: Nationally representative sample of US children born in 2001.

Participants: Height and weight were measured in 2005 in approximately 8550 children who participated in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort.

Main exposure: Racial/ethnic group.

Outcome measure: Prevalence of obesity, defined as body mass index at or above the 95th percentile for age of the sex-specific Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts.

Results: Obesity prevalence among 4-year-old US children (mean age, 52.3 months) was 18.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 17.1%-19.8%). Obesity prevalence differed by racial/ethnic group (P < .001): American Indian/Native Alaskan, 31.2% (95% CI, 24.6%-37.8%); Hispanic, 22.0% (95% CI, 19.5%-24.5%); non-Hispanic black, 20.8% (95% CI, 17.8%-23.7%); non-Hispanic white, 15.9% (95% CI, 14.3%-17.5%); and Asian, 12.8% (95% CI, 10.0%-15.6%). All pairwise differences in obesity prevalence between racial/ethnic groups were statistically significant after a Bonferroni adjustment (P < .005) except for those between Hispanic and non-Hispanic black children and between non-Hispanic white and Asian children.

Conclusions: Racial/ethnic disparities in obesity are apparent in 4-year-old US children. The highest prevalence is in American Indian/Native Alaskan children, in whom obesity is twice as common as in non-Hispanic white or Asian children.

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child Welfare / ethnology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / ethnology*
  • Prevalence
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / statistics & numerical data