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Income inequality and weight status in US metropolitan areas

Listed author(s):
  • Chang, Virginia W.
  • Christakis, Nicholas A.
Registered author(s):

    Prior empirical studies have demonstrated an association between income inequality and general health endpoints such as mortality and self-rated health, and findings have been taken as support for the hypothesis that inequality is detrimental to individual health. Unhealthy weight statuses may function as an intermediary link between inequality and more general heath endpoints. Using individual-level data from the 1996-98 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, we examine the relationship between individual weight status and income inequality in US metropolitan areas. Income inequality is calculated with data from the 1990 US Census 5% Public Use Microsample. In analyses stratified by race-sex groups, we do not find a positive association between income inequality and weight outcomes such as body mass index, the odds of being overweight, and the odds of being obese. Among white women, however, we do find a statistically significant inverse association between inequality and each of these weight outcomes, despite adjustments for individual-level covariates, metropolitan-level covariates, and census region. We also find that greater inequality is associated with higher odds for trying to lose weight among white women, even adjusting for current weight status. Although our findings are suggestive of a contextual effect of metropolitan area income inequality, we do not find an increased risk for unhealthy weight outcomes, adding to recent debates surrounding this topic.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277-9536(04)00594-5
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 61 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 1 (July)
    Pages: 83-96

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:61:y:2005:i:1:p:83-96
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    1. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1993. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," NBER Working Papers 4521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Kawachi, Ichiro & Kennedy, Bruce P., 1997. "The relationship of income inequality to mortality: Does the choice of indicator matter?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 1121-1127, October.
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    6. Soobader, Mah-Jabeen & LeClere, Felicia B., 1999. "Aggregation and the measurement of income inequality: effects on morbidity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 48(6), pages 733-744, March.
    7. Blakely, Tony A. & Lochner, Kimberly & Kawachi, Ichiro, 2002. "Metropolitan area income inequality and self-rated health--a multi-level study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 65-77, January.
    8. John Cawley, 2000. "Body Weight and Women's Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 7841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Hugh Gravelle & John Wildman & Matthew Sutton, "undated". "Income, Income Inequality and Health: What can we Learn from Aggregate Data?," Discussion Papers 00/26, Department of Economics, University of York.
    10. Kahn, Henry S. & Tatham, Lilith M. & Pamuk, Elsie R. & Heath, Clark W., 1998. "Are geographic regions with high income inequality associated with risk of abdominal weight gain?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 1-6, July.
    11. anonymous, 2001. "Revisions to staff commentary on Regulation E," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue May, pages 306-306.
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