Factors associated with food insecurity among Latinx/Hispanics in the U.S.: evidence from the Fragile Families Childhood Wellbeing Study

Publication Year


Journal Article

Objective: U.S. Latinx/Hispanic families experience higher food insecurity rates than the general population. Few studies have examined factors that contribute to food insecurity among the Latinx/Hispanic population, and none have done so using a national dataset. Drawing from the ecological theory of human development framework, this study explores the following research questions: What micro-, meso-, and exo/macro-system factors are related to adult and child food insecurity? How do these factors compare for Latinx/Hispanic, Black, and White mothers?

Design: This study uses data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), a national survey that follows a birth cohort of mostly unwed parents and their children over a 15-year period. The sample was limited to Hispanic (both foreign-born and native-born), non-Hispanic Black mothers, and non-Hispanic White mothers. This yielded a final sample size of 2,636 for all mothers and 665 for Latinx/Hispanic mothers.

Results: While micro-level factors were influential for food insecurity, they alone could not explain the variation. Social support, a meso-level factor, remained a consistently significant predictor for both adult and child food insecurity, regardless of race/ethnicity. There were also several key differences in predictors across racial/ethnic groups. Being Spanish speaking and mother’s health status were only significant for Latinx/Hispanic mothers, and neighborhood support was not significant for Latinx/Hispanic mothers.

Conclusions: Drawing from ecological theory, our study explores the micro-, meso-, and exo-/macro-level variables that influence food insecurity. Findings suggest that access to social support is crucial for disadvantaged families avoiding food insecurity, despite race/ethnicity. Still, factors predicting food insecurity may be racialized and should be recognized as such.

Ethnicity and Health