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Expanding wallets and waistlines: the impact of family income on the BMI of women and men eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit

  • Maximilian D. Schmeiser

    (Department of Consumer Science and Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA)

The rising rate of obesity has reached epidemic proportions and is now one of the most serious public health challenges facing the US. However, the underlying causes for this increase are unclear. This paper examines the effect of family income changes on body mass index (BMI) and obesity using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort. It does so by using exogenous variation in family income in a sample of low-income women and men. This exogenous variation is obtained from the correlation of their family income with the generosity of state and federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program benefits. Income is found to significantly raise the BMI and probability of being obese for women with EITC-eligible earnings, and have no appreciable effect for men with EITC-eligible earnings. The results imply that the increase in real family income from 1990 to 2002 explains between 10 and 21% of the increase in sample women's BMI and between 23 and 29% of their increased obesity prevalence. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/hec.1430
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Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Health Economics.

Volume (Year): 18 (2009)
Issue (Month): 11 ()
Pages: 1277-1294

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Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:18:y:2009:i:11:p:1277-1294
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/5749

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  1. Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. V. Joseph Hotz & John Karl Scholz, 2001. "The Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Working Papers 8078, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Anderson, Patricia M. & Butcher, Kristin F. & Levine, Phillip B., 2003. "Maternal employment and overweight children," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 477-504, May.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Richard Burkhauser & John Cawley, 2006. "The Importance of Objective Health Measures in Predicting Early Receipt of Social Security Benefits: The Case of Fatness," Working Papers wp148, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  7. Kamhon KAN & Wei-Der TSAI, 2004. "Obesity and Risk Knowledge," IEAS Working Paper : academic research 04-A002, Institute of Economics, Academia Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan.
  8. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," NBER Working Papers 8946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  10. Gordon B. Dahl & Lance Lochner, 2005. "The Impact of Family Income on Child Achievement," NBER Working Papers 11279, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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