Who Drinks More Bottled Water? A Racial Breakdown

This study attempted to evaluate the use of bottled water and assess the general beliefs and attitudes about water among the parents of children from different racial and ethnic groups. Parents of children who were being treated at an emergency department were asked to answer a questionnaire about their opinions regarding tap water and their use of bottled water. A correlation was drawn between their beliefs and their ethnicity. It was found that African American and Latino parents were more likely to give their children bottled water than non-Latino white Americans. They believed that bottled water was safer, cleaner, and tastier than tap water.

Nearly 37 billion liters of bottled water is sold in the United States each year. Concerns have been raised over the environmental friendliness of bottled water, as well as its effect on the health of consumers. Studies have shown that there may be a higher bacterial load in bottled water. It has also been associated with the increased incidence of diarrhea in children. Moreover, consumption of bottled water in place of tap water leads to inadequate intake of fluoride by children, therefore affecting their oral health. Doctors can help in improving consumer understanding regarding these issues. Minority parents (African Americans and Latinos) give their children bottled water more often, believing it to be better than tap water, which is unfortunate, considering its impact on health and environment. This study analyzed the reasons behind such a preference of bottled water and its further implications.


  • The survey questions for this study were developed using a small sample size of 15 minority parents visiting a pediatric emergency room. They were interviewed to identify their reasons for using bottled water.
  • Using the data collected from these parents, six criteria were identified and assessed based on water preference, namely, “safety and cleanliness, taste, convenience, habit, child preference, and healthiness”. The parents’ opinion on each of these criteria was recorded.
  • Based on the above survey, 11 “belief statements” were then formulated. Questions were posed to 639 parents belonging to Latino, African American, and non-Latino white ethnicities about how much they agreed with these 11 belief statements. Their answers were rated based on a five-point scale, starting from one (indicating strong agreement) to five (indicating strong disagreement).


  • It was found that 48% of parents suggested that their children drank only bottled water. About 20% of the parents of minority children belonging to Latino and African American ethnicities gave their children only bottled water, compared to less than 10% of non-Latino white parents.
  • Unlike non-Latino white parents, the minority parents tended to believe that bottled water tasted better, and was cleaner, healthier and easier to use. This was despite the fact that they all got information regarding bottled water from almost the same sources.
  • On an average, the minorities seem to spend more on bottled water per month despite having a lower average income.

Shortcomings/Next steps
There may be other factors that affect the parents’ decision to buy bottled water that were not assessed in this study. The parents who answered the questionnaire were present in an emergency room with their children. This may have affected their answers, as they could have been preoccupied with their child’s illness. Older children may use water sources that differ from that suggested by their parents, and this was not taken into consideration during this study.

African American and Latino minority groups in America believe that bottled water is a better substitute for tap water for their children. They seem to believe that bottled water is tastier, more convenient, and healthy. There is no scientific evidence that bottled water is healthier than tap water. On the contrary, it is found to affect oral health negatively. In addition, it is expensive, and increases the financial pressure on the family. Yet, the use of bottled water is found to be more prevalent in these minority groups, when compared to non-Latino white Americans. This study can help medical care providers and physicians to improve the patient’s understanding about drinking water, and help in decreasing the frequent use of bottled water.

For More Information:
Perceptions about Water and Increased Use of Bottled Water in Minority Children
Publication Journal: Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, June 6, 2011
By Marc H Gorelick; Lindsay Gould
From the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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