Childhood Obesity Facts

Prevalence of Childhood Obesity in the United States

Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States putting children and adolescents at risk for poor health. Obesity prevalence among children and adolescents is still too high.

For children and adolescents aged 2-19 years1:

  • The prevalence of obesity was 18.5% and affected about 13.7 million children and adolescents.
  • Obesity prevalence was 13.9% among 2- to 5-year-olds, 18.4% among 6- to 11-year-olds, and 20.6% among 12- to 19-year-olds. Childhood obesity is also more common among certain populations.
  • Hispanics (25.8%) and non-Hispanic blacks (22.0%) had higher obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic whites (14.1%).
  • Non-Hispanic Asians (11.0%) had lower obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics.

1Read CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data brief Cdc-pdf[PDF-603KB]

Note: Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile of the CDC sex-specific BMI-for-age growth charts.

Obesity and Socioeconomic Status

[Read the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)]

  • The prevalence of obesity decreased with increasing level of education of the household head among children and adolescents aged 2-19 years.
  • Obesity prevalence was 18.9% among children and adolescents aged 2-19 years in the lowest income group, 19.9% among those in the middle income group, and 10.9% among those in the highest income group.
  • Obesity prevalence was lower in the highest income group among non-Hispanic Asian and Hispanic boys.
  • Obesity prevalence was lower in the highest income group among non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Asian, and Hispanic girls. Obesity prevalence did not differ by income among non-Hispanic black girls.

Prevalence of Childhood Obesity among Young Low-Income WIC Children in the United States, 2014

Obesity disproportionally affects children from low-income families. Through a collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture, CDC uses data from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Participants and Program Characteristics (WIC PC) to replace data from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS) for obesity surveillance on the prevalence of obesity among young children aged 2 to 4 years from low-income families. [Read the MMWR report]

  • In 2014, 14.5% of the WIC participants aged 2 to 4 years of age had obesity.
  • The prevalence of obesity among young low-income children varied by WIC State Agency ranging from 8.2% in Utah to 20% in Virginia.
  • The prevalence of obesity was higher among Hispanic (17.3%) and American Indian/Alaska Native (18.0%) young children than among those who were non-Hispanic white (12.2%), non-Hispanic black (11.9%), or Asians/Pacific Islander (11.1%).

To view these and other indicators related to nutrition, physical activity and obesity, please visit the Data, Trends, and Maps interactive database. There you can search on the basis of a specific location or an indicator.

Trends of Childhood Obesity among Young Low-Income WIC Children in the United States, 2000-2014

During 2000–2010, the overall prevalence of obesity among young low-income children in WIC increased significantly, from 14.0% in 2000 to 15.5% in 2004 and to 15.9% in 2010; during 2010–2014, the overall prevalence decreased significantly to 14.5%. [Read the MMWR report]

  • Among non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians/Alaska Natives, the prevalence of obesity among young low-income children increased significantly during 2000–2004, then decreased significantly during 2010–2014. Among Asians/Pacific Islanders, the prevalence decreased significantly during 2000–2010.
  • Among the 54 WIC State Agencies in states and U.S. territories with data for 2000 and 2004, the prevalence of obesity increased in 48 (89%); among these increases, 38 (70%) were statistically significant.
  • Among the 54 WIC State Agencies with data for 2004 and 2010, the prevalence of obesity increased in 26 (48%), including 17 (31%) that were statistically significant; the prevalence decreased in 27 (37%) State Agencies, including 20 (74%) that were statistically significant.
  • Among the 56 WIC State Agencies with data for 2010 and 2014, only 9 (16%) experienced an increase in obesity prevalence, including 4 (7%) in which the increase was statistically significant. The prevalence of obesity decreased in 45 (80%) State Agencies, including 34 (61%) in which the difference was statistically significant.

Trends in Weight-for-Length Among Infants in the Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program, 2000-2014

An infant’s relative weight can be measured in several ways, one of which is known as weight-for-length. Infant’s with high level of weight; such as, high body mass index (BMI), weight-for-length, or infants who exhibit rapid growth are at increased risk of subsequent obesity in childhood and early adulthood.

Overall, high weight-for-length decreased from 14.5% in 2010 to 12.3% in 2014 among infants aged 3 to 23 months that were enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Read the publicationExternal.

  • From 2010–2014, 36 states and territories observed a significant decrease in weight-for-length among infants aged 3 to-23 months. For state and territory specific information, please visit the State- and Territory-Specific Changes in the Prevalence of High Weight-for-Length (WFL) Among Infants in the WIC-PC Survey table.
  • High weight-for-length varied across racial/ethnic groups with the 2014 prevalence higher among American Indian (15.6%) and Hispanic (13.8%) infants than among black (11.9%), white (11%), and Asians/Pacific Islander (8.5%) infants.
  • Between 2010–2014, all 20 combinations of race/ethnicity and income showed decreases in the prevalence of high weight-for-length, with the largest decrease among American Indians and Hispanics.