Overweight and Obesity
Parents’ reports of their children’s height and weight can be used to calculate children’s Body Mass Index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height. Children whose BMI falls between the 85th and 95th percentiles for their age and sex were considered to be overweight, and those with a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for their sex and age were considered to be obese. Although the survey collects data on height and weight for children of all ages, BMI is only calculated for children aged 10 to 17 because parent-reported height and weight were more reliable for this age group than they were for younger children. Overall, 31.6 percent of children met the criteria for overweight or obesity based on their parent-reported weight and height.
Children living in small rural areas were more likely than urban children to be overweight or obese. More than one-third of children in both large and small rural areas had a BMI at or above the 85th percentile for their age and sex, compared to 30.9 percent of urban children.
In all locations, children with lower household incomes were more likely to be overweight or obese. The rate of overweight and obesity among children in poverty was approximately twice that of children with household incomes of 400 percent of the Federal poverty level (FPL) or more; for example, among children in large rural areas, 46.3 percent of those in poverty were overweight or obese, compared to 23.7 percent of those with household incomes of 400 percent of the FPL or more. Within each income group, however, rates of overweight and obesity did not vary substantially by location.
Black children and Spanish-speaking Hispanic children were the most likely to be overweight or obese, regardless of location. More than 40 percent of Black children and at least 45 percent of Spanish-speaking Hispanic children are reported to be overweight or obese.