The contribution of change in ethnic composition to prevalence of obesity and overweight

Juan-Carlos Campos, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Objective. The prevalence of overweight and obesity differs substantially among children of different ethnic origin in the United States. The objective of this project is to estimate to what extent changes in ethnic composition since 1980 have contributed to the current general “obesity epidemic” in the childhood population of the United States. Methods. Populations by single year of age, 0 to 19, male and female, for Hispanics, non-Hispanic whites, and non-Hispanic blacks, from the US Census’ July estimates for 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2005 were taken and compared to the population and percentage of those groups from 1980. Age, sex, and ethnicity specific prevalence rates for overweight in 1980 were then applied to the populations by age for the specified year and differences in expected and actual overweight populations were assessed. Result. The results from this investigation provide estimates of the contribution that different ethnic groups have made to the overall prevalence of overweight and obesity in the childhood population of the United States. Assuming that the 1976-1980 prevalence rates had remained unchanged, and then comparing the population had there been no change in ethnic composition with the population given the actual change in ethnicity, the percentage increase was 1.06% in 1985, 1.72% in 1990, 2.57% in 1995, 3.95% in 2000, and 4.39% in 2005. Conclusion. The changes in ethnic composition of the population, independent of changes in ethnicity-specific prevalence, have contributed substantially to the current overall prevalence of obesity in the United States childhood population. There are a number of factors that may be responsible for the apparent susceptibility of Mexican-Americans and non-Hispanic blacks to overweight and obesity. Further research is needed on specific characteristics of those populations.

Subject Area

Public Health Education|Ethnic studies

Recommended Citation

Campos, Juan-Carlos, "The contribution of change in ethnic composition to prevalence of obesity and overweight" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1479577.