Photo: Latino Teen Research
Black and Latino fifth graders in the U.S. are more likely than white students to be obese, to get too little exercise, to witness violence and to ride without seatbelts and bike helmets, all signs of significant disparities that could put their health and safety at risk, a new study finds.
Yet, despite what researchers characterize as “striking” differences in how black and Latino children are faring compared to whites, their report gives clues about what may lie at the heart of it—and it’s largely not race or ethnicity itself.
Instead, the analysis showed that when household income, family education level and the schools the children attended were taken into account, some of those disparities disappeared.
In other words, a black or Latino child from a similar economic background, attending a similar school and whose parents had an equal level of education did about as well as a white child from the same demographic on many health measures.
The study is published in the Aug. 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers measured 16 aspects of health and health-related behavior, and found significant differences between black and white children on all 16 indicators, and significant differences between white and Latino children on 12 of the 16 indicators.
For Latino children, taking into account those other socioeconomic factors, seven health disparities were eliminated. Others were substantially reduced, and on three measures, Latino children fared better than white kids from similar backgrounds. (Those included the likelihood of being victimized by a peer and of perpetrating physical or nonphysical aggression.)