Concentrated Poverty in U.S. Schools and Adolescents’ Risk of Being Overweight


Augustine, Jennifer March; Pivnick, Lilla; Olson, Julie Skalamera; & Crosnoe, Robert (2020). Concentrated Poverty in U.S. Schools and Adolescents’ Risk of Being Overweight. Social Currents.


The economic segregation of U.S. schools undermines the academic performance of students, particularly students from low-income families who are often concentrated in high-poverty schools. Yet it also fuels the reproduction of inequality by harming their physical health. Integrating research on school effects with social psychological and ecological theories on how local contexts shape life course outcomes, we examined a conceptual model linking school poverty and adolescent students’ weight. Applying multilevel modeling techniques to the first wave of data (1994–1995) from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health; n = 18,924), the results revealed that individual students’ likelihood of being overweight increased as the concentration of students from low-income families in their schools increased, net of their own background characteristics. This linkage was connected to a key contextual factor: the exposure of students in high-poverty schools to other overweight students. This exposure may partly matter because of the lower prevalence of dieting norms in such schools, although future research should continue to examine potential mechanisms.



medical sociology

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Social Currents


Augustine, Jennifer March
Pivnick, Lilla
Olson, Julie Skalamera
Crosnoe, Robert

Year Published




Reference ID