Socioeconomic status and trajectory of overweight from birth to mid-childhood: the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort

PLoS One. 2014 Jun 20;9(6):e100181. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100181. eCollection 2014.


Objective: Our objective was to use longitudinal data from a US birth cohort to test whether the probability of overweight or obesity during the first 6 years of life varied according to socioeconomic status.

Design and methods: Using six waves of longitudinal data from full-term children in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort (2001-2007; n≈4,950), we examined the prevalence of overweight or obesity (Body Mass Index (BMI)>2 standard deviations above age- and sex- specific WHO Childhood Growth Standard reference mean; henceforth, "overweight/obesity") according to age, socioeconomic status, and race/ethnicity using generalized estimating equation models.

Results: The association between socioeconomic status and overweight/obesity varied significantly by race/ethnicity, but not by sex. Overweight/obesity was significantly associated with socioeconomic status among whites, Hispanics and Asians; the adjusted odds of overweight/obesity began to diverge according to SES after the first 9 months of life. By approximately 4 years, children with the highest SES had a significantly lower odds of overweight/obesity. SES was not significantly related to overweight/obesity among African Americans and American Indians during early childhood.

Conclusions: Few studies have assessed the associations between SES and overweight/obesity within racial/ethnic groups in the US. We find that in contemporary, US-born children, SES was inversely associated with overweight/obesity among more racial/ethnic groups (whites, Hispanics, and Asians) than previously reported.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / ethnology*
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Distribution
  • Social Class*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • United States / ethnology