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The timing of the rise in U.S. obesity varies with measure of fatness

  • Burkhauser, Richard V.
  • Cawley, John
  • Schmeiser, Maximilian D.

There are several ways to measure fatness and obesity, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The primary measure for tracking the prevalence of obesity has historically been body mass index (BMI). This paper compares long-run trends in the prevalence of obesity when obesity is defined using skinfold thickness instead of BMI, using data from the full series of U.S. National Health Examination Surveys. The results indicate that when one uses skinfold thickness rather than BMI to define obesity, the rise in the prevalence of obesity is detectable 10-20 years earlier. This underscores the importance of examining multiple measures of fatness when monitoring or otherwise studying obesity.

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

Volume (Year): 7 (2009)
Issue (Month): 3 (December)
Pages: 307-318

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:7:y:2009:i:3:p:307-318
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622964

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  1. 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.
  2. Courtemanche, Charles, 2008. "Longer Hours and Larger Waistlines? The Relationship Between Work Hours and Obesity," Working Papers 09-2, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Department of Economics, revised 12 Mar 2009.
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  5. Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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  7. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Cawley, John, 2008. "Beyond BMI: The value of more accurate measures of fatness and obesity in social science research," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 519-529, March.
  8. 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.
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  10. Borghans, Lex & Golsteyn, Bart H.H., 2006. "Time discounting and the body mass index: Evidence from the Netherlands," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 4(1), pages 39-61, January.
  11. Monheit, Alan C. & Vistnes, Jessica P. & Rogowski, Jeannette A., 2009. "Overweight in adolescents: Implications for health expenditures," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 55-63, March.
  12. Johansson, Edvard & Böckerman, Petri & Kiiskinen, Urpo & Heliövaara, Markku, 2009. "Obesity and labour market success in Finland: The difference between having a high BMI and being fat," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 36-45, March.
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