Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Individual and neighborhood-level socioeconomic characteristics in relation to smoking prevalence among black and white adults in the Southeastern United States: a cross-sectional study

Sarah S Cohen1*, Jennifer S Sonderman1, Michael T Mumma1, Lisa B Signorello12 and William J Blot12

Author Affiliations

1 International Epidemiology Institute, 1455 Research Blvd, Suite 550, Rockville, MD 20850, USA

2 Division of Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, 2525 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2011, 11:877  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-877

Published: 21 November 2011



Low individual-level socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with higher prevalence of cigarette smoking. Recent work has examined whether neighborhood-level SES may affect smoking behavior independently from individual-level measures. However, few comparisons of neighborhood-level effects on smoking by race and gender are available.


Cross-sectional data from adults age 40-79 enrolled in the Southern Community Cohort Study from 2002-2009 (19, 561 black males; 27, 412 black females; 6, 231 white males; 11, 756 white females) were used in Robust Poisson regression models to estimate prevalence ratios (PRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for current smoking in relation to individual-level SES characteristics obtained via interview and neighborhood-level SES characteristics represented by demographic measures from US Census block groups matched to participant home addresses.


Several neighborhood-level SES characteristics were modestly associated with increased smoking after adjustment for individual-level factors including lower percentage of adults with a college education and lower percentage of owner-occupied households among blacks but not whites; lower percentage of households with interest, dividends, or net rental income among white males; and lower percentage of employed adults among black females.


Lower neighborhood-level SES is associated with increased smoking suggesting that cessation programs may benefit from targeting higher-risk neighborhoods as well as individuals.

Cigarette smoking; Socioeconomic status; Race; Residence characteristics