Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status and Fruit and Vegetable Intake Among Whites, Blacks, and Mexican Americans in the United States

Published in: The American journal of clinical nutrition, v. 87, no. 6, June 2008, p. 1883-1891

Posted on RAND.org on June 01, 2008

by Tamara Dubowitz, Melonie Heron, Chloe E. Bird, Nicole Lurie, Brian Karl Finch, Ricardo Basurto-Davila, Lauren Hale, Jose J. Escarce

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BACKGROUND: Socioeconomic and racial-ethnic disparities in health status across the United States are large and persistent. Obesity rates are rising faster in black and Hispanic populations than in white populations, and they foreshadow even greater disparities in chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease in years to come. Factors that influence dietary intake of fruit and vegetables in these populations are only partly understood. OBJECTIVES: The authors examined associations between fruit and vegetable intake and neighborhood socioeconomic status (SES), analyzed whether neighborhood SES explains racial differences in intake, and explored the extent to which neighborhood SES has differential effects by race-ethnicity of US adults. DESIGN: Using geocoded residential addresses from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, we merged individual-level data with county and census tract-level US Census data. They estimated 3-level hierarchical models predicting fruit and vegetable intake with individual characteristics and an index of neighborhood SES as explanatory variables. RESULTS: Neighborhood SES was positively associated with fruit and vegetable intake: a 1-SD increase in the neighborhood SES index was associated with consumption of nearly 2 additional servings of fruit and vegetables per week. Neighborhood SES explained some of the black-white disparity in fruit and vegetable intake and was differentially associated with fruit and vegetable intake among whites, blacks, and Mexican Americans. CONCLUSIONS: The positive association of neighborhood SES with fruit and vegetable intake is one important pathway through which the social environment of neighborhoods affects population health and nutrition for whites, blacks, and Hispanics in the United States.

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