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Previous research has produced inconsistent results on whether education and ethnic disparities in BMI persist, widen, or diminish over time. We investigate how education and ethnicity, independently and conditionally, influence BMI trajectories during the transition to older adulthood. Employing random coefficient modeling, we analyzed 8 biennial waves of data (1992-2006) from the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative longitudinal study of individuals born between 1931 and 1941. After adjusting for health behaviors and health status, education and ethnic disparities in BMI persisted for most groups, but narrowed between high-educated white men and both low-educated Hispanic men and high-educated black men. As such, our findings generally support the persistent inequality interpretation. Therefore, even though interventions targeted at earlier points in the life course may be effective in reducing BMI disparities in later life, social and health policies directed at reducing obesity among older adults is also warranted.


Walsemann, K. M., & Ailshire, J. A. (2011). BMI trajectories during the transition to older adulthood: Persistent, widening or diminishing disparities by ethnicity and education? Research on Aging, 33(3), 286-311.

DOI: 10.1177/0164027511399104

© Research on Aging, 2011, SAGE Publications

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