Racial Disparities in Child Adversity in the U.S. Interactions with Family Immigration History and Income

Natalie Slopen, Jack P. Shonkoff, Michelle A. Albert, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Aryana Jacobs, Rebecca Stoltz, David R. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction Childhood adversity is an under-addressed dimension of primary prevention of disease in children and adults. Evidence shows racial/ethnic and socioeconomic patterning of childhood adversity in the U.S., yet data on the interaction of race/ethnicity and SES for exposure risk is limited, particularly with consideration of immigration history. This study examined racial/ethnic differences in nine adversities among children (from birth to age 17 years) in the National Survey of Child Health (2011-2012) and determined how differences vary by immigration history and income (N=84,837). Methods We estimated cumulative adversity and individual adversity prevalences among white, black, and Hispanic children of U.S.-born and immigrant parents. We examined whether family income mediated the relationship between race/ethnicity and exposure to adversities, and tested interactions (analyses conducted in 2014-2015). Results Across all groups, black and Hispanic children were exposed to more adversities compared with white children, and income disparities in exposure were larger than racial/ethnic disparities. For children of U.S.-born parents, these patterns of racial/ethnic and income differences were present for most individual adversities. Among children of immigrant parents, there were few racial/ethnic differences for individual adversities and income gradients were inconsistent. Among children of U.S.-born parents, the Hispanic-white disparity in exposure to adversities persisted after adjustment for income, and racial/ethnic disparities in adversity were largest among children from high-income families. Conclusions Simultaneous consideration of multiple social statuses offers promising frameworks for fresh thinking about the distribution of disease and the design of targeted interventions to reduce preventable health disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-56
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Epidemiology


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