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Reading, writing, and raisinets: are school finances contributing to children’s obesity?

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  • Patricia M. Anderson
  • Kristin Butcher

Abstract

The proportion of adolescents in the United States who are obese has nearly tripled over the last two decades. At the same time, schools, often citing financial pressures, have given students greater access to “junk” foods and soda pop, using proceeds from these sales to fund school programs. We examine whether schools under financial pressure are more likely to adopt potentially unhealthful food policies. Next, we examine whether students’ Body Mass Index (BMI) is higher in counties where a greater proportion of schools are predicted to allow these food policies. Because the financial pressure variables that predict school food policies are unlikely to affect BMI directly, this two step estimation strategy addresses the potential endogeneity of school food policies. ; We find that a 10 percentage point increase in the proportion of schools in a county that allow students access to junk food leads to about a one percent increase in students’ BMI, on average. However, this average effect is entirely driven by adolescents who have an overweight parent, for whom the effect of such food policies is much larger (2.2%). This suggests that those adolescents who have a genetic or family susceptibility to obesity are most affected by the school food environment. A rough calculation suggests that the increase in availability of junk foods in schools can account for about one-fifth of the increase in average BMI among adolescents over the last decade.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in its series Working Paper Series with number WP-04-16.

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Date of creation: 2004
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedhwp:wp-04-16

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Keywords: Overweight children ; Education ; Junk food;

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  1. Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 1985. "Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(4), pages 370-79, October.
  2. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher & Phillip B. Levine, 2003. "Economic perspectives on childhood obesity," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q III, pages 30-48.
  3. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher & Phillip B. Levine, 2002. "Maternal employment and overweight children," Working Paper Series WP-02-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  4. Downes, Thomas A. & Figlio, David N., 1999. "Do Tax and Expenditure Limits Provide a Free Lunch? Evidence on the Link Between Limits and Public Sector Service Quality," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 1), pages 113-28, March.
  5. Eric A. Hanushek & Margaret E. Raymond, 2002. "Improving educational quality: how best to evaluate our schools," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 47(Jun), pages 193-247.
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Cited by:
  1. Currie, Janet & DellaVigna, Stefano & Moretti, Enrico & Pathania, Vikram, 2009. "The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity," Working Papers 47830, American Association of Wine Economists.
  2. Janet Currie & Stefano DellaVigna & Enrico Moretti & Vikram Pathania, 2009. "The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity and Weight Gain," NBER Working Papers 14721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Stutzer, Alois, 2007. "Limited Self-Control, Obesity and the Loss of Happiness," IZA Discussion Papers 2925, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Grainger, Corbett & Senauer, Benjamin & Runge, C. Ford, 2005. "Analyzing Health Innovations in a School Lunch Program," Working Papers 14393, University of Minnesota, Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy.
  5. Levy, Amnon, 2006. "Junk Food, Health and Productivity: Taste, Price, Risk and Rationality," Economics Working Papers wp06-22, School of Economics, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia.
  6. Levy, Amnon, 2007. "A theoretical analysis of rational diet of healthy and junk foods," Economics Working Papers wp07-01, School of Economics, University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia.

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