The Impact of Minimum Wage Rates on Body Weight in the United States
AbstractGrowing consumption of increasingly less expensive food, and especially “fast food”, has been cited as a potential cause of increasing rate of obesity in the United States over the past several decades. Because the real minimum wage in the United States has declined by as much as half over 1968-2007 and because minimum wage labor is a major contributor to the cost of food away from home we hypothesized that changes in the minimum wage would be associated with changes in bodyweight over this period. To examine this, we use data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from 1984-2006 to test whether variation in the real minimum wage was associated with changes in body mass index (BMI). We also examine whether this association varied by gender, education and income, and used quantile regression to test whether the association varied over the BMI distribution. We also estimate the fraction of the increase in BMI since 1970 attributable to minimum wage declines. We find that a $1 decrease in the real minimum wage was associated with a 0.06 increase in BMI. This relationship was significant across gender and income groups and largest among the highest percentiles of the BMI distribution. Real minimum wage decreases can explain 10% of the change in BMI since 1970. We conclude that the declining real minimum wage rates has contributed to the increasing rate of overweight and obesity in the United States. Studies to clarify the mechanism by which minimum wages may affect obesity might help determine appropriate policy responses.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15485.
Date of creation: Nov 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as David O. Meltzer, Zhuo Chen. "The Impact of Minimum Wage Rates on Body Weight in the United States," in Michael Grossman and Naci H. Mocan, editors, "Economic Aspects of Obesity" University of Chicago Press (2011)
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- David O. Meltzer & Zhuo Chen, 2011. "The Impact of Minimum Wage Rates on Body Weight in the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Aspects of Obesity, pages 17-34 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
- I28 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Government Policy
- J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2009-11-14 (All new papers)
- NEP-HEA-2009-11-14 (Health Economics)
- NEP-LAB-2009-11-14 (Labour Economics)
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