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J Health Soc Behav. 2018 Mar;59(1):56-73. doi: 10.1177/0022146517746672. Epub 2018 Jan 4.

Intersecting Social Inequalities and Body Mass Index Trajectories from Adolescence to Early Adulthood.

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1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.


This study combines multiple-hierarchy stratification and life course perspectives to address two research questions critical to understanding U.S. young adult health. First, to what extent are racial-ethnic inequalities in body mass index (BMI) gendered and/or classed? Second, do racial-ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic inequalities in BMI widen or persist between adolescence and early adulthood? Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 cohort and growth curve models, results suggest that among white, black, and Hispanic American men and women ages 13 to 31, racial-ethnic inequality in BMI is greatest among women. Black women experience the highest adolescent BMI and the greatest increases in BMI with age. Furthermore, socioeconomic resources are less protective against weight gain for blacks and Hispanics, with the nature of these relationships varying by gender. Findings present a more nuanced picture of health inequality that renders visible the disproportionate burden of poor health experienced by marginalized groups.


body mass index; intersectionality; life course; population health; race

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