Racial disparities in obesity among women in the United States are substantial but the causes of these disparities are poorly understood. We examined changes in body mass index (BMI) trajectories for Black and White women as a function of neighborhood disadvantage and racial composition of the neighborhoods within which respondents are clustered. Using four waves of the Americans' Changing Lives (ACL) survey, we estimated multilevel models predicting BMI trajectories over a 16-year period. Even after controlling for individual-level socio-demographics, risk and protective factors, and baseline neighborhood disadvantage and racial composition, substantial racial disparities in BMI persisted at each time point, and widened over time (p < 0.05). Baseline neighborhood disadvantage is associated with BMI and marginally reduces racial disparities in BMI, but it does not predict BMI changes over time. However, without neighborhood-level variables, the BMI trajectory model is misspecified, highlighting the importance of including community factors in future research.
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