Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 854–864 | Cite as

Examining the Role of Income Inequality and Neighborhood Walkability on Obesity and Physical Activity among Low-Income Hispanic Adults

  • Samuel D. TowneJr.
  • Michael L. Lopez
  • Yajuan Li
  • Matthew Lee Smith
  • Judith L. Warren
  • Alexandra E. Evans
  • Marcia G. Ory
Original Paper


Obesity is a major public health issue affecting rising medical costs and contributing to morbidity and premature mortality. We aimed to identify factors that may play a role in obesity and physical activity at the individual and environmental/neighborhood levels. We analyzed data from an adult sample who were parents of students enrolled in a school-based health and wellness program. The sample was restricted to those who were Hispanic and whose children were on free/reduced lunch (n = 377). Dependent variables: body mass index (BMI); neighborhood walkability. Walk Score® was used to assess neighborhood walkability. Overall, 46% of participants were obese and 31% were overweight. The median age of respondents was 34 years, and the majority were female (88%) and married (59%). Participants who resided in a census tract with a higher relative income inequality (high, OR 2.54, 90% CI 1.154–5.601; moderate-high OR 2.527, 90% CI 1.324–4.821) and those who were unmarried (OR 1.807, 90% CI 1.119–2.917) were more likely to be obese versus normal weight. Overweight individuals that resided in areas that were walkable versus car-dependent averaged more days engaging in walking for at least 30-min (p <.05). Identifying individual and neighborhood factors associated with obesity can inform more targeted approaches to combat obesity at multiple ecological levels. The importance of understanding how neighborhood characteristics influence health-related and behavioral outcomes is further reinforced with the current findings. Identifying effective strategies to engage communities and organizations in creating, implementing, adopting, evaluating, and sustaining policy and/or environmental interventions will be needed to combat the obesity epidemic.


Health and place Hispanic Minority Low income Physical activity Income inequality 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have any competing interests in the manuscript

Ethical Approval

Ethical Approval was granted by the Texas A&M University Institutional Review Board (IRB Number: IRB2011-0012D).

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants. Participation in this study was voluntary and the study was carried out in accordance with all ethical standards.


This material is based on work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2011-68001-30138. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel D. TowneJr.
    • 1
  • Michael L. Lopez
    • 2
  • Yajuan Li
    • 3
  • Matthew Lee Smith
    • 1
    • 4
  • Judith L. Warren
    • 2
  • Alexandra E. Evans
    • 5
  • Marcia G. Ory
    • 6
  1. 1.Texas A&M School of Public HealthCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Texas A&M AgriLife ExtensionTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  3. 3.Department of Agricultural EconomicsTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Promotion and Behavior, College of Public HealthThe University of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  5. 5.Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living Division of Health Promotion and Behavioral Science School of Public HealthUniversity of TexasAustinUSA
  6. 6.Center for Population Health and AgingTexas A&M School of Public HealthCollege StationUSA

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