BACKGROUND. Obesity is more prevalent among Black women than Black men, but there is little information on the correlates of obesity in Blacks. This study describes the relations of sociodemographic factors and health behaviors to body mass index in a southern, Black population. METHODS. In 1988, a community probability sample of 1784 Black adults, aged 25 to 50, was examined in Pitt County, NC. RESULTS. More women than men were at least 20% overweight (57% vs 36%). The relation of socioeconomic status (a composite of education and occupation) to age-adjusted body mass index level was inverse in women but not in men. Body mass index did not differ with either current energy intake or energy expenditure. Smokers and drinkers had lower age-adjusted levels than non-smokers and abstainers. CONCLUSIONS. Since the excess body mass index levels associated with low socioeconomic status in women could not be explained after controlling for adverse health behaviors, further epidemiologic study of risk factors for obesity in Black women is recommended.