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Sex differences in obesity rates in poor countries: Evidence from South Africa

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  • Case, Anne
  • Menendez, Alicia

Abstract

Globally, men and women face markedly different risks of obesity. In all but of handful of (primarily Western European) countries, obesity is much more prevalent among women than men. We examine several potential explanations for this phenomenon. We analyze differences between men and women in reports and effects of potential underlying causes of obesity--childhood and adult poverty, depression, and attitudes about obesity. We evaluate the evidence for each explanation using data collected in an urban African township in the Cape Town metropolitan area. Three factors explain the greater obesity rates we find among women. Women who were nutritionally deprived as children are significantly more likely to be obese as adults, while men who were deprived as children face no greater risk. In addition, women of higher adult socioeconomic status are significantly more likely to be obese, which is not true for men. These two factors - childhood circumstances and adult SES - can fully explain the difference in obesity rates between men and women that we find in our sample. More speculatively, in South Africa, women's perceptions of an [`]ideal' female body are larger than men's perceptions of the [`]ideal' male body, and individuals with larger [`]ideal' body images are significantly more likely to be obese.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics & Human Biology.

Volume (Year): 7 (2009)
Issue (Month): 3 (December)
Pages: 271-282

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:7:y:2009:i:3:p:271-282

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622964

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Keywords: Sex differences Obesity Southern Africa;

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  1. Bergstrom, Theodore C., 1993. "A survey of theories of the family," Handbook of Population and Family Economics, in: M. R. Rosenzweig & Stark, O. (ed.), Handbook of Population and Family Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 21-79 Elsevier.
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Cited by:
  1. Radwan, Amr & Gil, José M., 2014. "On the Nexus between Economic and Obesity Crisis in Spain: Parametric and Nonparametric Analysis of the Role of Economic Factors on Obesity Prevalence," 88th Annual Conference, April 9-11, 2014, AgroParisTech, Paris, France 170341, Agricultural Economics Society.
  2. Griffiths, Paula L. & Johnson, William & Cameron, Noël & Pettifor, John M. & Norris, Shane A., 2013. "In urban South Africa, 16 year old adolescents experience greater health equality than children," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 502-514.
  3. Custodio, Estefanía & Descalzo, Miguel Ángel & Roche, Jesús & Molina, Laura & Sánchez, Ignacio & Lwanga, Magdalena & Torres, Alberto Manuel & Fernández-Zincke, Eduardo & Bernis, Cristina & Villam, 2010. "The economic and nutrition transition in Equatorial Guinea coincided with a double burden of over- and under nutrition," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 80-87, March.
  4. Martin Wittenberg, 2011. "The Weight of Success: The Body Mass Index and Economic Well-being in South Africa," SALDRU Working Papers 65, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
  5. Roemling, Cornelia & Qaim, Matin, 2012. "Obesity Trends, Determinants and Policy Implications in Indonesia," 2012 Conference, August 18-24, 2012, Foz do Iguacu, Brazil 126208, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
  6. Anne Case, 2010. "Comment on "The Education Gradient in Old Age Disability"," NBER Chapters, in: Research Findings in the Economics of Aging, pages 120-122 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Classen, Timothy J., 2010. "Measures of the intergenerational transmission of body mass index between mothers and their children in the United States, 1981-2004," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 30-43, March.
  8. Romling, Cornelia & Qaim, Matin, 2011. "Direct and Indirect Determinants of Obesity: The Case of Indonesia," Discussion Papers 108350, Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen, GlobalFood, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.
  9. Rodrigo Barros, 2008. "Wealthier But Not Much Healthier: Effects of a Health Insurance Program for the Poor in Mexico," Discussion Papers 09-002, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  10. Tafreschi, Darjusch, 2011. "The Income Body Weight Gradients in the Developing Economy of China," Economics Working Paper Series 1140, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
  11. Fumagalli, Elena & Mentzakis, Emmanouil & Suhrcke, Marc, 2013. "Do political factors matter in explaining under- and overweight outcomes in developing countries?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 48-56.

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