Race and Social Problems

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 147–156

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Leisure-time Physical Activity in California: Patterns and Mechanisms



Evidence has shown that racial/ethnic minorities in the United States are less likely than whites to engage in leisure-time physical activity (LTPA); yet few studies to date have included Asian subgroups in the analyses and mechanisms underlying these disparities are not well known. This study uses data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey (N = 37,164) to examine racial/ethnic disparities in self-reported adherence to LTPA recommendations and to explore the mediating roles of socioeconomic status (SES), acculturation, and neighborhood perceptions. Nine racial/ethnic groups were included: non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Mexicans, and six largest Asian subgroups. Results confirm that racial/ethnic minorities are, in general, less likely than whites to meet LTPA recommendations, whereas heterogeneity is also evident across Asian subgroups. No significant disparity is revealed for the Japanese and Filipinos but whites are advantaged compared to all other Asian groups. Educational attainment, percent of lifetime spent in the United States and access to park, playground, or open space are significantly associated with meeting LTPA recommendations. SES and acculturation play differential roles in explaining group disparities for blacks, Mexicans, and some Asian subgroups. Perceived neighborhood environment does not mediate LTPA disparities by race/ethnicity. Net of these mediators, the advantages of whites in meeting LTPA recommendations persist for blacks, Mexicans, the Chinese, and Koreans. Future research should theorize and operationalize additional multilevel pathways linking race/ethnicity and LTPA while assessing measurement errors in the existing constructs.


Physical activity Race and ethnicity Socioeconomic status Acculturation Perceived neighborhood environment 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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