Residential racial composition and black-white obesity risks: differential effects of neighborhood social and built environment

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Jan 2;11(1):626-42. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110100626.


This study investigates the association between neighborhood racial composition and adult obesity risks by race and gender, and explores whether neighborhood social and built environment mediates the observed protective or detrimental effects of racial composition on obesity risks. Cross-sectional data from the 2006 and 2008 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey are merged with census-tract profiles from 2005-2009 American Community Survey and Geographic Information System-based built-environment data. The analytical sample includes 12,730 whites and 4,290 blacks residing in 953 census tracts. Results from multilevel analysis suggest that black concentration is associated with higher obesity risks only for white women, and this association is mediated by lower neighborhood social cohesion and socioeconomic status (SES) in black-concentrated neighborhoods. After controlling for neighborhood SES, black concentration and street connectivity are associated with lower obesity risks for white men. No association between black concentration and obesity is found for blacks. The findings point to the intersections of race and gender in neighborhood effects on obesity risks, and highlight the importance of various aspects of neighborhood social and built environment and their complex roles in obesity prevention by socio-demographic groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Assessment