The neighborhood environment and obesity: Understanding variation by race/ethnicity

Michelle S. Wong, Kitty S. Chan, Jessica C. Jones-Smith, Elizabeth Colantuoni, Roland J. Thorpe, Sara N. Bleich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Neighborhood characteristics have been associated with obesity, but less is known whether relationships vary by race/ethnicity. This study examined the relationship between soda consumption – a behavior strongly associated with obesity – and weight status with neighborhood sociodemographic, social, and built environments by race/ethnicity. We merged data on adults from the 2011–2013 California Health Interview Survey, U.S. Census data, and InfoUSA (n = 62,396). Dependent variables were soda consumption and weight status outcomes (body mass index and obesity status). Main independent variables were measures of three neighborhood environments: social (social cohesion and safety), sociodemographic (neighborhood socioeconomic status, educational attainment, percent Asian, percent Hispanic, and percent black), and built environments (number of grocery stores, convenience stores, fast food restaurants, and gyms in neighborhood). We fit multi-level linear and logistic regression models, stratified by individual race/ethnicity (NH (non-Hispanic) Whites, NH African Americans, Hispanics, and NH Asians) controlling for individual-level characteristics, to estimate neighborhood contextual effects on study outcomes. Lower neighborhood educational attainment was associated with higher odds of obesity and soda consumption in all racial/ethnic groups. We found fewer associations between study outcomes and the neighborhood, especially the built environment, among NH African Americans and NH Asians. While improvements to neighborhood environment may be promising to reduce obesity, null associations among minority subgroups suggest that changes, particularly to the built environment, may alone be insufficient to address obesity in these groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-377
Number of pages7
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Health status disparities
  • Minority health
  • Obesity
  • Resident characteristics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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