Osteoporosis and hip fractures are less common and bone mass is greater in black than in white women. To determine if bone mass is greater in black than in white children, bone mineral density (BMD) of the midradius by single-photon absorptiometry and BMD of the lumbar spine (L1-L4), trochanter, and femoral neck by dual-photon absorptiometry were measured in 20 black boys, 18 black girls, 33 white boys, and 35 white girls between the ages of 7 and 12 years. Mean age (10.4 +/- 0.3 versus 10.2 +/- 0.2 years) and body weight (39 +/- 2 versus 38 +/- 2 kg) in the blacks and whites, respectively, were not different in the two groups, and the ages and weights of the boys and girls were not different from each other. BMD were significantly greater in black than in white children at each site, in the black than in white boys at the trochanter and femoral neck, and in the black than in white girls at each site. In both races, BMD varied directly with age and body weight. Multivariate analysis showed that BMD were greater at the midradius, lumbar spine, trochanter, and femoral neck in the black than in the white children, that BMD of the lumbar spine was greater in the girls than in the boys, and that BMD of the trochanter and femoral neck were greater in the boys than in the girls. There were significant partial correlations between race and BMD and between BMD and body weight at each site, between sex and BMD at the lumbar spine, trochanter, and femoral neck, and between age and BMD at the midradius, trochanter, and femoral neck. Race, sex, age, and body weight together accounted for 49-66% of the variation in bone mass. Thus, BMD of the midradius, spine, and hip are greater in black than in white children, body weight and age are important determinants of bone mass, and some sex differences in bone mass are present at this age.