The relationship between parity and body fat distribution was investigated in a sample of 1,590 Mexican American, 411 Cuban American, and 657 Puerto Rican women, aged 20-74 years. Participants were interviewed and examined as part of the Hispanic Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a cross-sectional study of a representative sample of Hispanic populations residing in the United States. In each ethnic group, there was an increase with greater parity in overall body fat (body mass index [BMI], or triceps plus subscapular skinfolds), central vs. peripheral skinfold thicknesses (subscapular/triceps ratio), and upper vs. lower body skinfold thicknesses (subscapular/calf ratio). These positive associations remained after adjusting for age, income, marital status, smoking, menopausal status, and education. They were statistically significant only in the Mexican American group. After controlling for the BMI, the association between parity and the subscapular/ calf ratio remained significant in Mexican Americans, suggesting a relationship between parity and upper body fat distribution independent of body size. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.