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INTRODUCTION: To help understand the impact of socioeconomic status, we examined the current prevalence and age-specific trend in overweight and obesity among two socioeconomically diverse groups of African Americans in the Washington, DC, area. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Data on height and weight were collected between March 1995 and December 1996 as a part of nutrition survey to develop a food frequency questionnaire. Gender-stratified multiple logistic regression analyses were used to examine factors related to the current prevalence of overweight and obesity. RESULTS: Three hundred nine African American public housing residents and 293 African American hospital employees participated in this survey. Overall, hospital workers and public housing residents differed significantly in the distribution of BMI (p = 0.003). Among men, the prevalence of overweight and obesity were 34.9% and 29.4% for hospital workers and 27.0% and 18.2% for public housing residents, respectively. For females these rates were 31.3% and 46.3% for hospital employees and 26.1% and 42.9% for public housing residents, respectively. CONCLUSION: Overweight and obesity were highly prevalent among all age and socioeconomic groups. Future research should focus on a more in-depth study of the relationship between socioeconomic status and the correlates of obesity among African-Americans, particularly women.