Individual and Neighborhood Differences in Diet Among Low-Income Foreign and U.S.-born Women

Published In: Women's Health Issues, v. 18, no. 3, May-June 2008, p. 181-190

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2008

by Tamara Dubowitz, S. V. Subramanian, Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, Theresa L. Osypuk, Karen E. Peterson

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BACKGROUND: Research on the immigrant or Latino health paradox has demonstrated that Latinos exhibit better health than U.S.-born whites, for multiple health outcomes, despite adjusting for socioeconomic status. However, little empirical research has focused on women and even less has focused on how the neighborhood residential environment is associated with these health differences, particularly in the area of diet. METHODS: The authors analyzed baseline data from 641 low-income women, nested within 184 census tracts, enrolled in a nutrition intervention trial for postpartum women. Individual-level variables, including race/ethnicity, nativity, duration of time in the United States, language acculturation, emotional and instrumental support, and socioeconomic position, were merged with tract-level variables from U.S. Census data (2000) based on residential address. The authors assessed daily fruit and vegetable servings through a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire. Using MLWin 2.0 software, the authors employed a 2-level linear regression model to ascertain associations of neighborhood immigrant, racial, and socioeconomic composition with individual diet, adjusting for individual-level sociodemographic characteristics. RESULTS: In our fully adjusted model, we observed a statistically significant increase of 1/3 of fruit and vegetable daily servings for each 10-percentage point increase in the tract foreign-born population. Each 10-percentage point increase in the tract Black population was associated with a significant 1/5 serving decrease in individual daily fruit and vegetable intake. CONCLUSIONS: Among this population of U.S. and foreign-born women, neighborhood composition was associated with individual diet, above and beyond individual-level characteristics, illuminating neighborhood context, immigrant health, and diet.

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