Prior research on health disparities has typically employed unidimensional or additive approaches to understanding the social stratification of health. These approaches assume that the effects of social statuses, including race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status (SES), are independent systems of stratification. However, assuming that systems of stratification are autonomous structures of inequality overlooks the unique and simultaneous positions of power and disadvantage within which individuals are situated, and may lead to inaccurate conclusions regarding the nature of health inequality. To address the limitations of prior research, this study combines multiple-hierarchy stratification and life course perspectives to evaluate how race/ethnicity, gender, and SES interact to shape trajectories of BMI between adolescence and young adulthood. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) 1997 cohort (ages 13-31) and growth curve models, this paper examines the extent to which racial/ethnic inequalities in BMI are gendered and/or classed, and whether the intersectional effects of race/ethnicity, gender, and SES result in widening, narrowing, or persistent gaps across age among whites, blacks, and Hispanics. Results suggest that race/ethnicity, gender, and SES combine in a multiplicative fashion to shape BMI trajectories. More specifically, racial inequality in BMI is greatest among women, with black women experiencing the highest BMI, and greatest increases in BMI with age. Additionally, findings indicate that socioeconomic resources are less protective for blacks and Hispanics compared to their white counterparts. Overall, these results are broadly consistent with intersectionality and cumulative disadvantage hypotheses. The examination of trends in BMI during key stages of the life course (e.g. adolescence, the transition to adulthood, early adulthood) sheds light on the particular life stages during which inequalities in BMI emerge, peak, and possibly begin to wane, thereby helping to identity relevant points of intervention.
|Advisor:||Brown, Tyson H.|
|Commitee:||Brown, Tyson H., Christie-Mizell, C. Andre, Cornfield, Daniel, Lee, Hedwig|
|School Location:||United States -- Tennessee|
|Source:||DAI-A 80/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Health disparities, Medical sociology, Population health, Social determinants of health, Social stratification|
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