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Overweight and poor? On the relationship between income and the body mass index

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  • Jolliffe, Dean

Abstract

Contrary to conventional wisdom, NHANES data indicate that the poor have never had a statistically significant higher prevalence of overweight status at any time in the last 35 years. Despite this empirical evidence, the view that the poor are less healthy in terms of excess accumulation of fat persists. This paper provides evidence that conventional wisdom is reflecting important differences in the relationship between income and the body mass index. The first finding is based on distribution-sensitive measures of overweight which indicates that the severity of overweight has been higher for the poor than the nonpoor throughout the last 35 years. The second finding is from a newly introduced estimator, unconditional quantile regression (UQR), which provides a measure of the income-gradient in BMI at different points on the unconditional BMI distribution. The UQR estimator indicates that the strongest relationship between income and BMI is observed at the tails of the distribution. There is a statistically significant negative income gradient in BMI at the obesity threshold and some evidence of a positive gradient at the underweight threshold. Both of these UQR estimates imply that for those at the tails of the BMI distribution, increases in income are correlated with healthier BMI values.

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Bibliographic Info

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

Volume (Year): 9 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 342-355

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:9:y:2011:i:4:p:342-355

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

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Keywords: Overweight; Obesity; Body mass index; Unconditional quantile regression; Foster–Greer–Thorbecke poverty measures; NHANES;

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References

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  1. Stifel, David C. & Averett, Susan L., 2009. "Childhood overweight in the United States: A quantile regression approach," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 387-397, December.
  2. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," NBER Working Papers 8946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1994, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  4. Dean Jolliffe, 2004. "Continuous and robust measures of the overweight epidemic: 1971–2000," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 303-314, May.
  5. Dean Jolliffe & Anastassia Semykina, 2000. "Robust standard errors for the Foster-Greer-Thorbecke class of poverty indices," Stata Technical Bulletin, StataCorp LP, vol. 9(51).
  6. Binh Nguyen & James Albrecht & Susan Vroman & Daniel Westbrook, 2003. "A Quantile Regression Decomposition of Urban-Rural Inequality in Vietnam," Working Papers gueconwpa~03-03-31, Georgetown University, Department of Economics.
  7. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson & Jay Bhattacharya, 2005. "Welfare-Enhancing Technological Change and the Growth of Obesity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 253-257, May.
  8. Patrinos, Harry Anthony & Sakellariou, Chris, 2004. "Economic volatility and returns to education in Venezuela : 1992-2002," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3459, The World Bank.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Strulik, Holger, 2014. "A mass phenomenon: The social evolution of obesity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 113-125.
  2. Rosinger, Asher & Tanner, Susan & Leonard, William R., 2013. "Precursors to overnutrition: The effects of household market food expenditures on measures of body composition among Tsimane' adults in lowland Bolivia," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 53-60.
  3. 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.

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