Socioeconomics and Obesity

Individuals with lower income and/or education levels are disproportionately more likely to be obese:

  • Nearly 33 percent of adults who did not graduate high school were obese, compared with 21.5 percent of those who graduated from college or technical college.
  • More than 33 percent of adults who earn less than $15,000 per year have obesity, compared with 24.6 percent of those who earned at least $50,000 per year.1

Socioeconomics and Obesity Among Children

An analysis of the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health found that:2,3,4

  • Children of parents with less than 12 years of education had an obesity rate 3.1 times higher (30.4 percent) than those whose parents have a college degree (9.5 percent).
  • Children living below the federal household poverty level have an obesity rate 2.7 times higher (27.4 percent) than children living in households exceeding 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • Children living in low-income neighborhoods are 20 percent to 60 percent more likely to be obese or overweight than children living in high socioeconomic status neighborhoods and healthier built environments.
  • Girls (ages 10 to 17) living in neighbor- hoods having lower socioeconomic characteristics are more likely to be obese (19.2 percent) and overweight (35.7 percent) than are girls living in neighborhoods having higher socioeconomic characteristics.


1 Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future – 2011. Washington, D.C.: Trust for America’s Health, 2011. (accessed July 2012). Based on data using the previous BRFSS methodology in use from 2008-2010.

2 Singh GK, Kogan MD. Childhood obesity in the United States, 1976-2008: Trends and Current Racial/Ethnic, Socioeconomic, and Geographic Disparities. A 75th Anniversary Publication. Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010.

3 Singh GK, Siahpush M, Kogan MD. Neighborhood socioeconomic conditions, built environments, and childhood obesity. Health Affairs, 29(3)503-512, 2010.

4 Singh GK, Siahpush M, Kogan MD. Rising social inequalities in US childhood obesity, 2003-2007. Annul Epi 20(1):40-52, 2010.