Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 343–350 | Cite as

Social Cohesion and Food Insecurity: Insights from the Geographic Research on Wellbeing (GROW) Study

  • Justin T. DenneyEmail author
  • Rachel Tolbert Kimbro
  • Katherine Heck
  • Catherine Cubbin


Objectives Food insecurity in the United States is a stubborn public health issue, affecting more than one in five households with children and disproportionately impacting racial and ethnic minority women and their children. Past research and policy has focused on household predictors of food insecurity, but neglected broader factors, such as perceived neighborhood social cohesion, that might protect those most vulnerable to food insecurity. Methods We use a racially and ethnically diverse data set from the Geographic Research on Wellbeing study (N = 2847) of women and their young children in California to investigate whether social cohesion influences food insecurity and whether it moderates the relationship between race/ethnicity and food insecurity. Results We find that lower levels of perceived residential neighborhood social cohesion associate with higher odds of food insecurity even after considering important household socioeconomic factors. In addition, our results suggest that social cohesion is most relevant for reducing the risk of food insecurity among racial and ethnic minority mothers. For example, the probability of food insecurity for immigrant Latina mothers is nearly 0.40 in neighborhoods where mothers perceive little to no cohesion and less than 0.10 in neighborhoods where mothers perceive high cohesion. Conclusions for Practice Higher levels of neighborhood perceived social cohesion are protective against food insecurity in households with children and especially so for racial and ethnic minority households who are at a heightened risk of food insecurity. Supporting programs that focus on building closer knit communities may be a key to reducing food insecurity overall and for reducing disparities in food insecurity by race and ethnicity.


Food insecurity Social cohesion Race Ethnicity 



We thank the Urban Health Program at Rice University for administrative support. This work was supported by a Research Scholar Grant from the American Cancer Society (RSGT-11-010-01-CPPB) to C. Cubbin and a Foundation for Child Development Young Scholars Program Grant (YSP Rice 10-2014) to J. Denney.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin T. Denney
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rachel Tolbert Kimbro
    • 1
  • Katherine Heck
    • 2
  • Catherine Cubbin
    • 3
  1. 1.Kinder Institute Urban Health Program and Department of SociologyRice UniversityHoustonUSA
  2. 2.Center on Social Disparities in HealthUniversity of California, San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  3. 3.Population Research Center and School of Social WorkUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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