Minority children at a higher risk for weight problems in both the US and England

Race/Ethnicity and nativity disparities in child overweight in the United States and England

From American Academy of Political and Social Science

With ties to diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol, childhood obesity in wealthy countries is certainly of growing concern to researchers. This study explores the ties between childhood weight problems, socioeconomic status, and nationality and finds that race, ethnicity, and immigrant status are risk factors for weight problems among children in the US and England. The researchers studied data of 6,816 children from the US and the UK to analyze childhood weight problems among certain demographics. This research highlights the consequences of migration for children, an area of study that is often overlooked by immigration researchers. “In the United States, both Hispanic and black children of native-born mothers have a higher risk of overweight than children of native-born whites,” the authors observe “In England, children of native-born black mothers have a higher risk of overweight, and in some models, children of native-born Asian mothers have a higher risk.” They recognize that migration requires children to make sense of a new country, often facing unwelcoming communities, whilst learning to navigate the social institutions of their host society and, more often than not, a new language.


Child overweight is a growing problem in wealthy countries. There is also evidence that child overweight varies by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. In this article, the authors use data from two recent birth cohort studies in the United States and England to address four questions: (1) Are race/ethnic and immigrant status associated with child overweight? (2) Is the association between socioeconomic status and child overweight similar across race/ethnic and nativity subgroups? (3) Does the age of immigrant mothers at migration moderate the association between immigrant status and child overweight? and (4) Does maternal obesity mediate the association between race/ethnicity and nativity and child overweight? Findings indicate that (1) race/ethnicity and immigrant status are risk factors for child overweight in both countries, (2) the influence of socioeconomic status differs by subgroup, (3) mother’s age at migration does not moderate the association, and (4) mother’s obesity mediates some of the race/ethnic disparities in child overweight.

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Article details
Melissa L. Martinson, Sara McLanahan, & Jeanne Brooks-Gunn (2012). Race/Ethnic and Nativity Disparities in Child Overweight in the United States and England American Academy of Political and Social Science, 643 (1) : 10.1177/0002716212445750

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