Contextual factors and weight change over time: A comparison between U.S. Hispanics and other population sub-groups

S. Heidi Ullmann, Noreen Goldman, Anne R. Pebley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


In recent decades there has been an increasing interest in understanding the role of social and physical contexts in influencing health behaviors and outcomes. This is especially true for weight, which is considered to be highly dependent on environmental factors. The evidence linking neighborhood characteristics to weight in the United States, however, is mixed. Many studies in this area are hampered by cross sectional designs and a limited scope, insofar as they investigate only one dimension of neighborhood context. It is also unclear to what extent neighborhood characteristics account for racial/ethnic disparities in weight. Using longitudinal data from the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey (L.A. FANS), we compare patterns of weight change between Hispanics and other racial and ethnic groups in order to evaluate whether we observe a pattern of unhealthy assimilation in weight among Hispanic immigrants and to identify differences in the rate at which different groups gain weight over time. We also explore the extent to which patterns of weight change are related to a wider range of community characteristics. We find that weight increases across all groups between the two study waves of L.A. FANS and that the increases are significant except for Asians/Pacific Islanders. With respect to differences in the pace of weight change, second and higher generation Hispanic women and black men gain weight more rapidly than their first generation Hispanic counterparts. Although the evidence presented indicates that first generation Hispanics gain weight, we do not find evidence for convergence in weight since the U.S.-born gain weight at a more rapid rate. The inclusion of community-level variables does not alter the relationships between the race, ethnicity, and immigrant generation categories and weight change. Of the six types of community characteristics considered, only collective efficacy is consistently and significantly associated with weight change, although the protective effect of neighborhood collective efficacy is seen only among women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-48
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
StatePublished - Aug 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


  • Hispanics
  • Neighborhood context
  • Sex differences
  • Social environment
  • United States
  • Weight


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