Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Health during Childhood: A Longitudinal Examination of Racial/Ethnic Differences in Parental Socioeconomic Timing and Child Obesity Risk

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Apr 11;15(4):728. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15040728.


Prior research suggests that socioeconomic standing during the early years of life, particularly in utero, is associated with child health. However, it is unclear whether socioeconomic benefits are only maximized at very young ages. Moreover, given the link between socioeconomic status (SES) and race, research is inconclusive whether any SES benefits during those younger ages would uniformly benefit all racial and ethnic groups. Using 1986-2014 data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY79), this study examines the impact of socioeconomic timing on child weight outcomes by race. Specifically, this research investigates whether specific points exist where socioeconomic investment would have higher returns on child health. Findings suggest that both the timing and the type of socioeconomic exposure is important to understanding child weight status. SES, particularly mother's employment and father's education, is important in determining child health, and each measure is linked to weight gain differently for White, Black, and Hispanic children at specific ages. Policies such as granting more educational access for men and work-family balance for women are discussed.

Keywords: child health; ethnicity; health disparities; obesity; overweight; parental influence; race; socioeconomic status.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Child Health / ethnology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Continental Population Groups
  • Ethnic Groups
  • European Continental Ancestry Group
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mothers
  • Parents*
  • Pediatric Obesity / ethnology*
  • Risk
  • Social Class*
  • Young Adult