The effects of ethnicity and ethnic composition of schools on physical activity and nutrition behaviors of 8th and 11th graders in Texas

Matthew P Turner, The University of Texas School of Public Health

Abstract

With rates of obesity and overweight continuing to increase in the US, the attention of public health researchers has focused on nutrition and physical activity behaviors. However, attempts to explain the disparate rates of obesity and overweight between whites and Hispanics have often proven inadequate. Indeed, the nebulous term ‘ethnicity’ provides little important detail in addressing potential biological, behavioral, and environmental factors that may affect rates of obesity and overweight. In response to this, the present research seeks to test the explanatory powers of ethnicity by situating the nutrition and physical activity behaviors of whites and Hispanic into their broader social contexts. It is hypothesized that a student's gender and grade level, as well as the socioeconomic status and ethnic composition of their school, will have more predictive power for these behaviors than will self-reported ethnicity. ^ Analyses revealed that while ethnicity did not seem to impact nutrition behaviors among the wealthier schools and those with fewer Hispanics, ethnicity was relevant in explaining these behaviors in the poorest tertile of schools and those with the highest number of Hispanics. With respect to physical activity behaviors, the results were mixed. The variables representing regular physical activity, participation in extracurricular physical activities, and performance of strengthening and toning exercises were more likely to be determined by SES and ethnic composition than ethnicity, especially among 8th grade males. However, school sports team and physical education participation continued to vary by ethnicity, even after controlling for SES and ethnic composition of schools. In conclusion then, it is important to understand the intersecting demographic and social variables that define and surround the individual in order to understand nutrition and physical activity behaviors and thus overweight and obesity.^

Subject Area

Education, Educational Psychology|Health Sciences, Public Health|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

Recommended Citation

Matthew P Turner, "The effects of ethnicity and ethnic composition of schools on physical activity and nutrition behaviors of 8th and 11th graders in Texas" (January 1, 2011). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). Paper AAI1497552.
http://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/dissertations/AAI1497552

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