The effects of poverty, race, and family structure on US children's health: data from the NHIS, 1978 through 1980 and 1989 through 1991

Am J Public Health. 1996 Oct;86(10):1401-5. doi: 10.2105/ajph.86.10.1401.


Objectives: This study investigated the independent and relative effects of family structure, race, and poverty on the health of US children and youth under 20 years of age at two time periods, 1978 through 1980 and 1989 through 1991.

Methods: Data were from the National Health Interview Surveys. Multivariate logit regression methods were used to analyze the effects of family structure, poverty, and race on children's health.

Results: Children in families headed by single mothers, Black children, and those living below 150% of the poverty index were much more likely to be in poor or fair health than children in two-parent families, White children, or those in more affluent families. Poverty had the strongest effect on child health in both time periods.

Conclusions: The association between children's health and living below 150% of the poverty index is not explained by race or family structure. The disparity in child health by family income has serious consequences for both the child and society.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black or African American
  • Child
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data
  • Child Welfare / trends*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Poverty*
  • Single Parent*
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • White People