Study Finds Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Among Fifth-Graders Across Country

Black children and Latino children fared worse than white children in almost every category.

By Jorge Rivas Aug 23, 2012

A national health study of 5,119 randomly-selected 5th graders who attend public schools in Los Angeles, Birmingham and Houston found that black children and Latino children fared worse than white children in almost every category. The study, led by Boston Children’s Hospital researchers and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, examined differences among black, Latino, and white children on 16 measures, including witnessing of violence, peer victimization, perpetration of aggression, seat-belt use, bike-helmet use, sub- stance use, discrimination, terrorism worries, vigorous exercise, obesity, and self-rated health status and psychological and physical quality of life. [The results:]( > There were significant differences between black children and white children for all 16 measures and between Latino children and white children for 12 of 16 measures, although adjusted analyses reduced many of these disparities. For example, in un- adjusted analysis, the rate of witnessing a threat or injury with a gun was higher among blacks (20%) and Latinos (11%) than among whites (5%), and the number of days per week on which the student performed vigorous exercise was lower among blacks (3.56 days) and Latinos (3.77 days) than among whites (4.33 days) (P<0.001 for all comparisons). After statistical adjustment, these differences were reduced by about half between blacks and whites and were eliminated between Latinos and whites. Household income, household highest education level, and the child's school were the most substantial mediators of racial and ethnic disparities. Adjustment for socioeconomic status and the child's school substantially reduced most of these differences.