Is childhood socioeconomic status independently associated with adult BMI after accounting for adult and neighborhood socioeconomic status?

Academic Article


  • Childhood socioeconomic status (SES) is inversely associated with adult weight in high income countries. Whether the influence of childhood SES on adult weight is best described using a critical period model or an accumulation of risk model is not yet settled. This research tests whether childhood SES is associated with adult BMI and likelihood of obesity independent of adult socioeconomic status and neighborhood characteristics. Data on individual childhood and adult characteristics come from the Health and Retirement Study (N = 13,545). Data on neighborhood characteristics come from the 2000 Decennial Census and American Community Survey (2005±2009). In the fully adjusted models, perceived financial hardship before the age of sixteen and having a father who was unemployed are associated with higher BMI among males and, among females, paternal education remains associated with adult BMI. However, childhood SES is not associated with likelihood of obesity after fully adjusting for adult SES and neighborhood characteristics, suggesting that the direct effects of early childhood SES on BMI are small relative to the other factors associated with obesity in adulthood.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • PLoS One  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Pavela G
  • Volume

  • 12
  • Issue

  • 1