Income, Race and its Association with Obesogenic Behaviors of U.S. Children and Adolescents, NHANES 2003–2006



To describe the associations of income and race with obesogenic behaviors and % body fat among a large sample of U.S. children and adolescents.


Data were obtained from the 2003–2004 and 2005–2006 National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. Multiple linear regression models and interactions were used to examine the associations of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), sedentary time, diet quality, and screen-time with income-to-poverty ratio and race. Separate stratified analyses explored associations among individual obesogenic behaviors within race and income groups.


This study included children and adolescents (n = 3551, mean = 13.1 years, SD = 3.9 years) who were 37% Hispanic, 27% White, and 35% Black. Overall, Hispanic children/adolescents had significantly higher levels of adiposity (3.6, 95 CI = 0.9, 6.3) than white children and adolescents. Medium-income children and adolescents engaged in less MVPA (− 3.3 min, 95 CI = − 5.1, − 1.5), had poorer diet quality (− 1.1, 95 CI = − 1.9, − 0.2), and used screens less (− 33.9 min, 95 CI = − 45.4, − 22.4) than children and adolescents from low-income households. High-income children and adolescents also engaged in less MVPA (− 3.1 min, 95 CI = − 5.5, − 0.7) and used screens less (− 62.9 min, 95 CI = − 78.3, − 47.4) than children and adolescents from low-income households. However, there were significant race/ethnicity-by-income interactions for high-income Hispanic children and adolescents with diet quality (− 3.5 HEI-2010 score, 95 CI = − 6.6, − 0.4) and screen time (66.9 min, 95 CI = 24.7, 109.0). There was also a significant race/ethnicity-by-income interaction for the screen-time of Black children and adolescents from medium (33.8 min, 95% CI 0.2, 67.3) and high (75.8 min, 95% CI 34.7, 117.0) income households.


There appears to be a complex relationship that varies by race/ethnicity between income, obesogenic behaviors, and adiposity levels among children and adolescents. More work is needed to identify the behavioral mechanisms that are driving disparate rates of overweight and obesity among minority children and those from low-income households.

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The first author reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R21HD090647. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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Hunt, E.T., Brazendale, K., Dunn, C. et al. Income, Race and its Association with Obesogenic Behaviors of U.S. Children and Adolescents, NHANES 2003–2006. J Community Health 44, 507–518 (2019).

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  • Obesity
  • Youth
  • Physical activity
  • Diet
  • Screen time
  • Adiposity