Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Objective and Subjective Obesity: The Role of Individual and Neighborhood Characteristics
Ming Wen, University of Utah
Lori Kowaleski-Jones, University of Utah
Zhang Xingyou, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Using data from the 2003 and 2004 continuous NHANES, focusing on adults age 20 or above and based on objectively measured BMI, this study confirms that compared to non-Hispanic whites (NHW), non-Hispanic blacks (NHB) and Hispanics are at higher risks of obesity, and other racial/ethnic groups (mostly Asians) are less likely to be obese. Among hypothesized individual-level socio-demographic mediators, immigrant status is the most salient contributor to the observed obesity disparities but its explanatory power is considerably smaller than that of the neighborhood variables. This study corroborates the contextual impacts of neighborhood SES, population density, and prevalence of residents being overweight and obese, suggesting that health-enhancing institutional resources and subcultural characteristics preventive against excess weight gains are independently important and jointly contributing to the observed NHW-NHB and NHW-Hispanic obesity disparities. Meanwhile, discrepancies in the analytical results between models based on objectively measured BMI versus those based on self-reported BMI are documented and their implications are discussed.