Personal network characteristics and body mass index: The role of education among Black Americans

Stephanie T. Child*, Katrina M. Walsemann, Andrew T. Kaczynski, Nancy L. Fleischer, Alexander C. McLain, Spencer Moore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background Personal (i.e. egocentric) network characteristics are associated with health outcomes, including overweight and obesity. Previous research suggests educational attainment may interact with network characteristics to buffer these relationships. Limited research has examined the personal network characteristics of Black Americans, who have increased risk of overweight and obesity. The purpose of the current study was to examine associations between network characteristics and body mass index (BMI), and whether educational attainment modified these associations among Black Americans. Methods In 2014, using respondent-driven sampling, we recruited 430 adult residents of eight low-income neighborhoods in Greenville, SC. Self-administered questionnaires assessed structural and compositional characteristics (i.e. size, density) of respondents' personal networks, socio-demographic characteristics, and health-related behaviors and conditions. Multilevel regression models with robust sandwich estimation accounted for clustering within respondent chains. Results Among Black adults overall, network density-the number of connections among network members-was positively associated with BMI. Higher education moderated this relationship; among Black adults with a college degree, higher network density was inversely associated with BMI. Conclusions Our data suggest low educational attainment may reflect more homogenous and less resourceful networks. Multiple pathways are discussed for how education interacts with network density on BMI among Black Americans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-137
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Public Health (United Kingdom)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Education
  • Employment and skills
  • Obesity
  • Relationships


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