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Overweight Adolescents and On-time High School Graduation: Racial and Gender Disparities

  • Albert Okunade


  • Andrew Hussey


  • Mustafa Karakus


Obesity among U.S. adolescents ages 12–19 rose from 4.6% in 1963–1965 to 17.4% in 2003–2004. This paper contributes to the literature on the impact of unhealthy body mass index (BMI) on health (e.g., obesity) and human capital (e.g., schooling) investments of adolescents. We use the propensity score method to study 8,388 individuals who responded to survey Waves I through III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), for students in grades 7–12. We estimate an economic model that captures longer-term effects of BMI categories (obesity and overweight separately) on on-time (dichotomous) high school graduation. We control for characteristics at the individual, household, and community levels. Baseline probit regression estimates were improved upon by using matching estimators (propensity scores yield consistent estimate of the average treatment on the treated) based on the nearest neighbor and the more robust kernel density weighting schemes. Results from both full and reduced models suggest no adverse impact of overweight or obesity on timely high school completion for males, but a significant average negative effect on females. Investigating disparities in effects across both gender and race, we isolate the adverse effects primarily to white and Asian females. No significant effects were found for African-Americans. One of the novel contributions of our research is that the significant effects of gender- and race- specific adolescent obesity and overweight conditions reach beyond high school GPA standing to also impact on-time high school graduation status. Copyright International Atlantic Economic Society 2009

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Article provided by International Atlantic Economic Society in its journal Atlantic Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 37 (2009)
Issue (Month): 3 (September)
Pages: 225-242

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Handle: RePEc:kap:atlecj:v:37:y:2009:i:3:p:225-242
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