40 percent of Americans are obese, but these numbers cut along racial lines. As socioeconomic position and access to resources (from grocery stores to parks) help prevent obesity, the relationships between obesity, race, and social context warrant further investigation. This brief explores how segregation and other forms of discrimination have helped lock in the obesity epidemic, as well as provide recommendations for improving outcomes for those most affected by it.

Key Findings

  • Although income does serve as a protective factor against obesity in children, higher income is less protective for black children than it is for white children
  • Other protective factors, including greater educational attainment and social mobility, similarly did less to protect certain groups than others, suggesting that social and structural determinants–e.g. racial discrimination in housing–play a role in these unequal outcomes
  • For example, the prevalence of food deserts (without supermarkets) and food swamps (an abundance fast food restaurants) in predominantly low-income and black neighborhoods contributes to the epidemic