Racial/ethnic Differences in US Health Behaviors

A Decomposition Analysis

Published in: American Journal of Health Behavior, v. 35, no. 3, May/June 2011. p. 290-304

Posted on RAND.org on April 30, 2011

by Tamara Dubowitz, Melonie Heron, Ricardo Basurto-Davila, Chloe E. Bird, Nicole Lurie, Jose J. Escarce

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OBJECTIVE: To quantify contributions of individual sociodemographic factors, neighborhood socioeconomic status (NSES), and unmeasured factors to racial/ethnic differences in health behaviors for non-Hispanic (NH) whites, NH blacks, and Mexican Americans. METHODS: We used linear regression and Oaxaca decomposition analyses. RESULTS: Although individual characteristics and NSES contributed to racial/ethnic differences in health behaviors, differential responses by individual characteristics and NSES also played a significant role. CONCLUSIONS: There are racial/ethnic differences in the way that individual-level determinants and NSES affect health behaviors. Understanding the mechanisms for differential responses could inform community interventions and public health campaigns that target particular groups.

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