Perceived Discrimination, Screen Use, and BMI Among Rural-to-Urban Migrant Children in China: Evidence from a Nutrition Transition Context


Discrimination promotes sedentary behavior and obesity among Western adults. The obesogenic impact of discrimination has yet been examined in developing countries. Participants were 1755 seventh grade rural-to-urban migrant students in the first three waves (2013–2016) of China Education Panel Survey—Junior High Cohort. Latent growth curve models evaluated associations of perceived origin-based discrimination with intercepts and slopes for BMI and screen use trajectories over a 3-year period. Most migrant students came from families of low socioeconomic status. Around 20% of the migrant students reported origin-based discrimination at school. After adjusting for covariates, origin-based discrimination was positively associated with intercepts of TV watching (b = 0.18, p < .001) and internet use (b = 0.24, p < .001), but was not associated with either the intercept or slope of BMI. Perceived discrimination increases screen use for Chinese migrant children, though its contribution to BMI growth is unclear. As the nutrition transition penetrates deeper into lives of all social strata, future studies need to monitor whether perceived discrimination may emerge as an important source of social disparity in obesity in China.

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This work was supported by research grant from the Research Foundation of Renmin University of China.

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Correspondence to Weidong Wang.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the IRB at Renmin University of China and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Li, M., Mustillo, S. & Wang, W. Perceived Discrimination, Screen Use, and BMI Among Rural-to-Urban Migrant Children in China: Evidence from a Nutrition Transition Context. J Immigrant Minority Health 21, 723–730 (2019).

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  • BMI
  • China
  • Discrimination
  • Obesity
  • Rural-to-urban migrant children
  • Screen use
  • Sedentary behavior