Neighborhood context and immigrant children's physical activity

Mackenzie Brewer, Rachel Tolbert Kimbro
Social Science & Medicine 2014, 116: 1-9
Physical activity is an important determinant of obesity and overall health for children, but significant race/ethnic and nativity disparities exist in the amount of physical activity that children receive, with immigrant children particularly at risk for low levels of physical activity. In this paper, we examine and compare patterns in physical activity levels for young children of U.S.-born and immigrant mothers from seven race/ethnic and nativity groups, and test whether physical activity is associated with subjective (parent-reported) and objective (U.S. Census) neighborhood measures. The neighborhood measures include parental-reported perceptions of safety and physical and social disorder and objectively defined neighborhood socioeconomic disadvantage and immigrant concentration. Using restricted, geo-coded Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten (ECLS-K) data (N = 17,510) from 1998 to 1999 linked with U.S. Census 2000 data for the children's neighborhoods, we utilize zero-inflated Poisson (ZIP) models to predict the odds of physical inactivity and expected days of physical activity for kindergarten-aged children. Across both outcomes, foreign-born children have lower levels of physical activity compared to U.S.-born white children. This disparity is not attenuated by a child's socioeconomic, family, or neighborhood characteristics. Physical and social disorder is associated with higher odds of physical inactivity, while perceptions of neighborhood safety are associated with increased expected days of physical activity, but not with inactivity. Immigrant concentration is negatively associated with both physical activity outcomes, but its impact on the probability of physical inactivity differs by the child's race/ethnic and nativity group, such that it is particularly detrimental for U.S.-born white children's physical activity. Research interested in improving the physical activity patterns of minority and second-generation immigrant children should consider how neighborhood context differentially impacts the health and physical activity of children from various racial, ethnic and nativity backgrounds.


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