Minorities’ Diminish Returns of Parental Education in Reducing Childhood Body Mass Index

Shervin Assari


Background: Considerable research has documented the effects of race and socioeconomic status (SES) on childhood body mass index (BMI) and obesity. However, less is known about the intersectional effects of race and family SES on childhood BMI.

Purpose: This study tested racial by SES variation in BMI among American 9-10 years old children. Built on Minorities’ Diminished Returns (MDRs), we expected a weaker family SES effect on childhood BMI for non-White than White and children.

Methods: For this cross-sectional study, data came from the Children Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, a national multi-center investigation of child development in the US. This study included 14881 BMI observations, 9-11-year-old children. The independent variables were family SES (parental education). Moderator was race. The primary outcome was BMI. Age, sex, ethnicity, and parental marital status were the covariates. To analyze the data, we used mixed-effect regression models.

Results: High parental education and race were associated with BMI. We found an interaction between race and parental education with non-White children with highly educated parents still having a high BMI.

Conclusions: For American children, BMI is shaped by the intersection of race, gender, and family SES. Children from highly educated families remain at risk of high BMI. Disparities in BMI and obesity should be approached through an intersectionality lens.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/rhs.v5n4p60


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