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The distribution of body fat, or fat patterning, is an important risk factor for cardiovascular disease and diabetes, independent of obesity. Furthermore, the incidence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes varies by ethnicity. We documented ethnic differences in anthropometric characteristics and body fat distribution between Anglo, Black, and Mexican American men (n =101), women (n = 245), boys (n = 111), and girls (n = 111). We used aggregates of skinfold measures to examine ethnic differences in the deposition of fat in body compartments (body, trunk, leg, and arm) and analyzed trunk-extremity skinfold ratios to determine which best reflected ethnic differences in fat distribution. The results show that Mexican American mothers have larger skinfold ratios and more body fat (as determined by skinfold aggregates) than either Anglo or Black American mothers, whereas Black American mothers have larger ratios than Anglo American mothers. Mexican American fathers also have larger skinfold ratios but not more body fat (skinfold aggregates) than Anglo American fathers. Mexican American fathers have more body fat than Black American fathers, but we found no differences between skinfold ratios. The ethnic differences among children in skinfold ratios and aggregates are similar to those found among fathers, with more differences among girls than boys. Fat patterning differences do exist among the three ethnicities, with greater trunk fat among Mexican and Black Americans. Those ethnicities are known to be at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.