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Am J Public Health. 2009 Dec;99(12):2238-46. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2007.116103. Epub 2009 Oct 21.

Socioeconomic status and body mass index among Hispanic children of immigrants and children of natives.

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  • 1Center for Family and Demographic Research, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA.



We examined how Hispanic parents' income and education, combined with their nativity status, influenced the body mass index (BMI) of their children, compared with non-Hispanic White children and their parents.


We used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 to estimate linear growth curve models of children's initial BMI in kindergarten and change in BMI through fifth grade. Socioeconomic status was measured by logged household income and parental educational attainment (less than high school, high school graduate, some college, college graduate or higher).


Parental education was negatively associated with children's BMI (baseline and growth) for non-Hispanic White children. Among Hispanic children, the association of parental education with growth in BMI was negative but much weaker. The weak effect of parental education was not explained by the presence of immigrants in the Hispanic population. Income was strongly negatively associated with children's BMI in kindergarten among children of Hispanic and White natives, but positively associated among Hispanic immigrant families.


The positive income-BMI association among Hispanic immigrant children might reflect cultural differences that immigrant parents carry with them from their countries of origin.

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