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Comparing the Influence of Childhood and Adult Economic Status on Midlife Obesity in Mexican American, White, and African American Women


Pamela J. Salsberry, College of Nursing, The Ohio State University, 1585 Neil Avenue, Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Objective: This research addresses the following 2 questions. What is the effect of childhood and adult economic status on midlife obesity in Mexican American women? How do these economic patterns in Mexican American women compare with patterns seen in White women and in African American women?

Method: Data were drawn from the U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youths 1979–2002 waves. The sample consisted of 422 Mexican Americans, 2,090 Whites, and 1,195 African Americans. The economic indicator used for childhood economic status was parent education; for adult economic status, the participant's own education and adult per capita income were used. Unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios were estimated for the relationship between midlife obesity and economic indicator, stratified by race/ethnic group.

Results: There was an increased risk for midlife obesity with disadvantaged economic status measured during childhood and at midlife in Mexican American women. The economic effects on midlife obesity in Mexican American women were similar to those found for White, but not African American women. Few economic influences on obesity at midlife were found for African American women.

Conclusions: Strategies that broadly improve the economic conditions of Mexican American women may be one important way to address the obesity epidemic in this population.