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Financial hardship and obesity

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  • Averett, Susan L.
  • Smith, Julie K.

Abstract

There is a substantial correlation between household debt and health. Individuals with less healthy lifestyles are more likely to hold debt, yet there is little evidence as to whether this is merely a correlation or if financial hardship actually causes obesity. In this paper, we use data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health to test whether financial hardship affects body weight. We divide our sample into two groups: men and women, explore two different types of financial hardship: holding credit card debt and having trouble paying bills, and three outcomes: overweight, obese and body mass index (BMI). We use a variety of econometric techniques: Ordinary Least Squares, Propensity Score Matching, Sibling Fixed Effects, and Instrumental Variables to investigate the relationship that exists between financial hardship and body weight. In addition, we conduct several robustness checks. Although our OLS and PSM results indicate a correlation between financial hardship and body weight these results appear to be largely driven by unobservables. Our IV results suggest that there is no causal relationship between credit card debt and overweight or obesity for either men or women. However, we find suggestive evidence that having trouble paying bills may be a cause of obesity for women.

Suggested Citation

  • Averett, Susan L. & Smith, Julie K., 2014. "Financial hardship and obesity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 15(C), pages 201-212.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:15:y:2014:i:c:p:201-212
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2013.12.004
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Argys, Laura & Friedson, Andrew & Pitts, M. Melinda, 2016. "Killer Debt: The Impact of Debt on Mortality," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2016-14, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    2. Guettabi, Mouhcine & Munasib, Abdul, 2015. "The Impact of Obesity on Consumer Bankruptcy," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 17(C), pages 208-224.
    3. Staudigel, Matthias, 2016. "A soft pillow for hard times? Economic insecurity, food intake and body weight in Russia," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 198-212.
    4. Staudigel, Matthias, 2015. "A soft pillow for hard times: Effects of economic insecurity on body weight in transitional Russia," 2015 AAEA & WAEA Joint Annual Meeting, July 26-28, San Francisco, California 205189, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    5. repec:eee:ehbiol:v:26:y:2017:i:c:p:70-85 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Davillas, Apostolos & Benzeval, Michaela, 2016. "Alternative measures to BMI: Exploring income-related inequalities in adiposity in Great Britain," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 166(C), pages 223-232.
    7. Dackehag, Margareta & Ellegård, Lina Maria & Gerdtham, Ulf-G. & Nilsson, Therese, 2016. "Day-to-Day Living Expenses and Mental Health," Working Papers 2016:19, Lund University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Obesity; Financial hardship; Body mass index; Overweight;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior

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