Researchers at Seattle Children's Research Institute, the University of Washington and Group Health Research Institute, say their look at 8,000 children indicates a disadvantaged environment can set families up for ill health.
The study, published online in advance of print in Social Science & Medicine, finds obesity most common in children in neighborhoods having the least-educated females, most single-parent households, lowest median household income, highest proportion of non-white residents and fewest homes owned.
These five socioeconomic factors accounted for 24 percent of the variability in childhood obesity rates across neighborhoods. The likelihood of childhood obesity rose by 17 percent to 24 percent for each of three measures of neighborhood social disadvantage.
"We were a little surprised that each of the census tract factors we included appeared to contribute, in a slightly different way, to the likelihood of childhood obesity," lead author Dr. H. Mollie Greves Grow of the University of Washington, Seattle Children's, and Harborview Medical Center, says in a statement.
Grow and colleagues looked at anonymous electronic medical record information on 8,616 children ages 6-18 and social and economic characteristics of Seattle-area census tracts.