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Why the Poor Get Fat: Weight Gain and Economic Insecurity

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Author Info

  • Trenton Smith
  • Christiana Stoddard
  • Michael G. Barnes

    ()
    (School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University)

Abstract

Something about being poor makes people fat. Though there are many possible explanations for the income-body weight gradient, we investigate a promising butlittle-studied hypothesis: that economic insecurity acts as an independent cause of weight gain. We use data on working age men from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) to identify the effect of various measures of economic insecurity on weight gain. We find in particular that over the 12-year period between 1988 and 2000, a one point (0.01) increase in the probability of becoming unemployed causes weight gain over this period to increase by about one pound, and each realized drop in annual income results in an increase of about 5.5 pounds. The mechanism also appears to work in reverse, with health insurance and government "social safety net" payments leading to smaller weight gains.

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File URL: http://faculty.ses.wsu.edu/WorkingPapers/tsmith/Insecurity033007.pdf
File Function: First version, 2007
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University in its series Working Papers with number 2007-16.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wsu:wpaper:tgsmith-2

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Keywords: obesity; unemployment; moral hazard; NLSY79;

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References

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  1. Partha Dasgupta & Eric Maskin, 2004. "Uncertainty and Hyperbolic Discounting," Economics Working Papers 0023, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  2. Gruber, Jonathan & Frakes, Michael, 2006. "Does falling smoking lead to rising obesity?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 183-197, March.
  3. 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.
  4. Smith, Trenton G, 2002. "The McDonald's Equilibrium: Advertising, Empty Calories, and the Endogenous Determination of Dietary Preferences," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0hx9x4jr, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  5. Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. Trenton Smith, 2009. "Reconciling psychology with economics: Obesity, behavioral biology, and rational overeating," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 249-282, December.
  7. Smith, Trenton G. & Tasnadi, Attila, 2005. "A Theory of Natural Addiction," 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI 19195, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  8. 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.
  9. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Anne Case & Darren Lubotsky & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Economic Status and Health in Childhood: The Origins of the Gradient," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1308-1334, December.
  11. Kowalski Amanda E. & Congdon William J. & Showalter Mark H., 2008. "State Health Insurance Regulations and the Price of High-Deductible Policies," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(2), pages 1-26, November.
  12. Albert J. Reed & J. William Levedahl & Charles Hallahan, 2005. "The Generalized Composite Commodity Theorem and Food Demand Estimation," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 87(1), pages 28-37.
  13. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  14. Shin-Yi Chou & Michael Grossman & Henry Saffer, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," NBER Working Papers 9247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2003. "Healthy Living in Hard Times," IZA Discussion Papers 711, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. Nord, Mark & Andrews, Margaret S. & Carlson, Steven, 2004. "Household Food Security In The United States, 2003," Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Reports 33835, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  17. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  18. Jay Bhattacharya & Neeraj Sood, 2005. "Health Insurance and the Obesity Externality," NBER Working Papers 11529, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1976. "Equilibrium in Competitive Insurance Markets: An Essay on the Economics of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(4), pages 630-49, November.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Todeschini, F.; & Labeaga, J.; & Jiménez-Martín, S.;, 2010. "Death by lung cancer or by diabetes? The unintended consequences of quitting smoking," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 10/16, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
  2. Avner Offer & Rachel Pechey & Stanley Ulijaszek, 2010. "Obesity under affluence varies by welfare regimes: the effect of fast food, insecurity, and inequality," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _082, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  3. Konstantinos Eleftheriou & George Athanasiou & Periklis Kougoulis, 2013. "Labour market, obesity and public policy considerations," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 33(1), pages 783-793.
  4. Averett, Susan L. & Smith, Julie K., 2012. "Indebted and Overweight: The Link Between Weight and Household Debt," IZA Discussion Papers 6898, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Olaf Hübler, 2012. "Are Tall People Less Risk Averse than Others?," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 457, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  6. Sergi Jiménez-Martín & Federico A. Todeschini & José María Labeaga, 2010. "Killing by lung cancer or by diabetes? The trade-off between smoking and obesity," Economics Working Papers 1218, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  7. R Nakamura & L Siciliani, 2010. "Education and Body Mass Index: Evidence from ECHP," Discussion Papers 10/04, Department of Economics, University of York.
  8. Smith, Trenton G. & Chouinard, Hayley H. & Wandschneider, Philip R., 2011. "Waiting for the invisible hand: Novel products and the role of information in the modern market for food," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 239-249, April.
  9. Trenton Smith, 2006. "Reconciling Psychology with Economics - Obesity, Behavioral Biology, and Rational Overeating," Working Papers 2006-4, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University.
  10. Trenton Smith & Hayley Chouinard & Philip Wandschneider, 2009. "Waiting for the Invisible Hand: Market Power and Endogenous Information in the Modern Market for Food," Working Papers 2009-07, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University.
  11. Srinivasan, C.S., 2013. "Can adherence to dietary guidelines address excess caloric intake? An empirical assessment for the UK," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 574-591.
  12. Alexiadis, Stilianos & Eleftheriou, Konstantinos, 2011. "Health is wealth: an empirical note across the US states," MPRA Paper 33517, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  13. Smith, Trenton G. & Stillman, Steven & Craig, Stuart, 2013. "The U.S. Obesity Epidemic:New Evidence from the Economic Security Index," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 151419, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  14. Wehby, George L. & Murray, Jeffrey C. & Wilcox, Allen & Lie, Rolv T., 2012. "Smoking and body weight: Evidence using genetic instruments," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 113-126.
  15. Ljungvall, Åsa, 2013. "The Freer the Fatter? A Panel Study of the Relationship between Body-Mass Index and Economic Freedom," Working Papers 2013:23, Lund University, Department of Economics.
  16. Akee, Randall K. Q. & Simeonova, Emilia & Copeland, William & Angold, Adrian & Costello, Jane E., 2010. "Does More Money Make You Fat? The Effects of Quasi-Experimental Income Transfers on Adolescent and Young Adult Obesity," IZA Discussion Papers 5135, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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