Objectives: We explored the association between community racial/ethnic composition and obesity risk.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study, we used nationally representative data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey linked to geographic data from the US Decennial Census and Census Business Pattern data.
Results: Living in communities with a high Hispanic concentration (≥ 25%) was associated with a 0.55 and 0.42 increase in body mass index (BMI; defined as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) and 21% and 23% higher odds for obesity for Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites, respectively. Living in a community with a high non-Hispanic Asian concentration (≥ 25%) was associated with a 0.68 decrease in BMI and 28% lower odds for obesity for non-Hispanic Whites. We controlled for individual- and community-level social, economic, and demographic variables.
Conclusions: Community racial/ethnic composition is an important correlate of obesity risk, but the relationship differs greatly by individual race/ethnicity. To better understand the obesity epidemic and related racial/ethnic disparities, more must be learned about community-level risk factors, especially how built environment and social norms operate within communities and across racial/ethnic groups.