Mismatch of School Desks and Chairs by Ethnicity and Grade Level in Middle School

Document Type


Publication Date



OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to compare anthropometric measurements of children/adolescent (6th grade - 8th grade) and use these measurements to determine fit by ethnicity and grade level across three common classroom desks and chairs.

STUDY DESIGN: Eighty-eight Caucasian-American (CA), 65 Mexican-American (MA), and 58 African-American (AA) 6th, 7th, and 8th graders participated in the study (n = 211 students). Students were seated (shoeless) on a horizontal seating surface with an adjustable footrest to obtain 90 degrees angles at the hips, knees, and ankles. Standing height and five seated measurements were obtained using a stadiometer. Desk measurements were obtained from the most common desks used for each grade level. Six measurements (seat height, seat depth, seat slope, desk height, desk clearance, desk slope) were obtained with a tape measure and angle finder. Mismatch was operationalized apriori to determine fit of student dimensions and desks.

RESULTS: Multivariate analysis (SPSS 10.1) revealed significant differences in anthropometric dimensions at each grade level for ethnicity and gender (p < 0.05). Only one 6th grade MA male fit both seat height and depth criteria. One-way ANOVA's and Scheffe post hoc tests revealed significant differences between fit by ethnicity for chair 1 and chair 2. No students experienced knee/desk clearance problems. Only one student was able to find a desk surface that did not exceed their maximum functional elbow height.

CONCLUSIONS: AA's had longer lower extremity lengths versus their ethnic counterparts at all grade levels. Subjects did not fit chairs and desks regardless of age or ethnicity. Ethnicity played a significant role in seat height fit for two of the three chairs. These disparities may create a generation with an increased incidence of musculoskeletal problems carrying over to adulthood and the adult workplace.

Publication Title

Work (Reading, Mass.)





First Page


Last Page


PubMed ID



This article was published in Work (Reading, Mass.), Volume 18, Issue 3, Pages 269-280.

The published version is available at http://content.iospress.com/articles/work/wor00238.

Copyright © 2002.

This document is currently not available here.