Individual versus neighborhood socioeconomic status and race as predictors of adolescent ambulatory blood pressure and heart rate

Jennifer J. McGrath, Karen A. Matthews, Sonya S. Brady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Socioeconomic status (SES) disparities are linked to increased cardiovascular disease risk. Although typically considered an individual or family indicator, SES alternatively can be derived from neighborhood characteristics. Previous research has found both family and neighborhood SES predict laboratory blood pressure responses in youth. The question remains as to whether this SES gradient predicts blood pressure during daily living situations. We evaluated individual versus neighborhood SES and race as predictors of ambulatory blood pressure and heart rate. Participants were recruited from two schools in Pittsburgh, diverse in terms of both race and SES. Adolescents' (N=212, 14.5 years, 50% black) cardiovascular responses were measured at school and home. Individual (parent education, household income) and neighborhood SES indices (derived from 78 census tracts: percentage with high school degree or less, percentage below poverty) were assessed. A neighborhood index of race based on the proportion of blacks in the census tract was also derived as a counterpart to individuals' race. Multi-level modeling indicated neighborhood income predicted systolic blood pressure. Individual race predicted diastolic blood pressure. Individual income and education, and neighborhood race each predicted heart rate. These results have important public health implications as they suggest individual and neighborhood SES and race are linked to cardiovascular risk disparities as early as adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1442-1453
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2006
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study authors wish to thank Diana Buck, Karen Kenyon, Heather Koston, Leslie Mitrik, and Kristen Solomon for their dedication and commitment to Project Pressure, and the principals, teachers, students, and administrative personnel at Perry Traditional Academy and Taylor-Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh for their participation in the research project. J. McGrath also wishes to thank Drs. Richard Day and Ravi Sharma for their early guidance. This research was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health grants (HL07560, HL25767) and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Socioeconomic Status and Health.


  • Adolescent
  • Blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular
  • Neighborhood
  • Socioeconomic status
  • USA
  • Youth


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