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Decomposing cross-country differences in levels of obesity and overweight: Does the social environment matter?

Listed author(s):
  • Font, Joan Costa
  • Fabbri, Daniele
  • Gil, Joan

This paper examines the influence of environmental factors on weight gain and obesity. We take advantage of a markedly different pattern of obesity between Italy in Spain to undertake a non-linear decomposition analysis of differences in the prevalence of overweight and obesity between the two countries. The analysis is based on cross-sectional national surveys for 2003. We have attempted to isolate the influence of lifestyle factors, socio-economic and socio-environmental effects in explaining cross-country differences in BMI status. Our findings suggest that when the social environment (proxied by different measures of peer effects and regional BMI) is not controlled for, we explain about 27-42% of the overall Spain-to-Italy overweight and obesity gap. Differences in eating habits and education between the two countries are the main predictors of the gaps in obesity and overweight. However, when social environment is controlled for, our estimates explain between 76 and 92% of the obesity and overweight gap and the effect of eating habits are wiped out. These results suggest healthy body weight depends on cultural or environmental triggers that operate through individual level health production determinants.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

Volume (Year): 70 (2010)
Issue (Month): 8 (April)
Pages: 1185-1193

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Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:70:y:2010:i:8:p:1185-1193
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  1. Costa-Font, Joan & Gil, Joan, 2008. "What lies behind socio-economic inequalities in obesity in Spain A decomposition approach," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 61-73, February.
  2. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," Working Papers 0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  3. Paul Contoyannis & John Wildman, 2007. "Using relative distributions to investigate the body mass index in England and Canada," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(9), pages 929-944.
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  5. Fairlie, Robert W, 1999. "The Absence of the African-American Owned Business: An Analysis of the Dynamics of Self-Employment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(1), pages 80-108, January.
  6. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce I. Sacerdote & Jose A. Scheinkman, 2003. "The Social Multiplier," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 1(2-3), pages 345-353, 04/05.
  7. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
  8. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
  9. Charles F. Manski, 2000. "Economic Analysis of Social Interactions," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 115-136, Summer.
  10. John Cawley & Chad Meyerhoefer & David Newhouse, 2007. "The impact of state physical education requirements on youth physical activity and overweight," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(12), pages 1287-1301.
  11. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
  12. Bauer, Thomas K., 2004. "High Performance Workplace Practices and Job Satisfaction: Evidence from Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 1265, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Costa-Font, Joan & Fabbri, Daniele & Gil, Joan, 2009. "Decomposing body mass index gaps between Mediterranean countries: A counterfactual quantile regression analysis," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 351-365, December.
  14. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
  15. Inas Rashad & Michael Grossman & Shin-Yi Chou, 2006. "The Super Size of America: An Economic Estimation of Body Mass Index and Obesity in Adults," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 32(1), pages 133-148, Winter.
  16. Sara Bleich & David Cutler & Christopher Murray & Alyce Adams, 2007. "Why Is The Developed World Obese?," NBER Working Papers 12954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Tomas Philipson, 2001. "The world-wide growth in obesity: an economic research agenda," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(1), pages 1-7.
  18. Oaxaca, Ronald L. & Ransom, Michael R., 1994. "On discrimination and the decomposition of wage differentials," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 5-21, March.
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