Magazine article Amber Waves

Gap in Obesity Rates between Low- and High-Income Children Widens with Age

Magazine article Amber Waves

Gap in Obesity Rates between Low- and High-Income Children Widens with Age

Article excerpt

Statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that about 17 percent of U.S. children and teens 2-19 years old were obese in 2011-12. Obese children are likely to become obese adults, putting them at risk of developing type-2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, and cardiovascular diseases.

A closer look at obesity statistics reveals that not all children are equally at risk. A higher proportion of children from low-income families are obese, compared with their peers from higher income families. (An obese child is one whose body mass index (BMI) is at or above the 95th percentile of the sex-specific CDC BMI-for-age growth chart.) ERS researchers investigated if the gap in obesity rates exists at birth or develops over time, and what factors may explain the gap. For their analysis, researchers used the U.S. Department of Education's Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999, which tracked a nationally representative sample of children attending kindergarten in 1998 until they reached eighth grade in 2006.

Low- and high-income children had roughly the same BMI distributions in kindergarten. However, by the time they reached eighth grade, a higher proportion of low-income children were obese, compared with high-income children. For instance, 20 percent of 14-year-old girls in the lowest family income quartile of the sample were obese, compared with 6 percent of those in the highest quartile. Boys displayed a similar pattern. …

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