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Studying the Child Obesity Epidemic with Natural Experiments

In: Economic Aspects of Obesity

  • Robert Sandy
  • Gilbert Liu
  • John Ottensmann
  • Rusty Tchernis
  • Jeff Wilson
  • O. T. Ford

We utilize clinical records of well successive child visits by the same child at clinics in Indianapolis to estimate the effects on their weights of changes in environment near their home. Our sample is limited to children who resided at the same address before and after the environmental change and in this initial investigation, are in the age range 3 through 12. Our environmental factors are fast food restaurants, supermarkets, parks, trails, and violent crimes. We looked for responses to these factors changing within buffers of 0.1, 0.25, 0.5, and 1 mile. The strongest effects were at the closest distances. None of the factors measured within a mile circle had an effect. Fast food restaurants moving close to the child’s home raised their weight. Supermarkets moving near the home lowered their weights. Additional violent crimes raised weights directly and indirectly by attenuating the weight reducing effects of parks and trails. The parks and trails are crudely measured by area and distance within the buffers. We are in the process of creating precise annual measures of three types of recreational amenities from the interpretation of aerial photographs.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Michael Grossman & Naci H. Mocan, 2011. "Economic Aspects of Obesity," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gros09-1, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 11820.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11820
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.orgEmail:


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    1. 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.
    2. John Cawley & Chad D. Meyerhoefer & David Newhouse, 2005. "The Impact of State Physical Education Requirements on Youth Physical Activity and Overweight," NBER Working Papers 11411, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Anderson, Michael L. & Matsa, David A., 2010. "Are Restaurants Really Supersizing America?," Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, Working Paper Series qt4vm5m5vr, Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley.
    4. Daniel L. Millimet & Rusty Tchernis & Muna Husain, 2008. "School Nutrition Programs and the Incidence of Childhood Obesity," NBER Working Papers 14297, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher, 2006. "Reading, Writing, and Refreshments: Are School Finances Contributing to Children’s Obesity?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(3).
    6. Hogan J.W. & Tchernis R., 2004. "Bayesian Factor Analysis for Spatially Correlated Data, With Application to Summarizing Area-Level Material Deprivation From Census Data," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 99, pages 314-324, January.
    7. Shin-Yi Chou & Inas Rashad & Michael Grossman, 2008. "Fast-Food Restaurant Advertising on Television and Its Influence on Childhood Obesity," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(4), pages 599-618, November.
    8. Kaushal, N., 2007. "Do food stamps cause obesity?: Evidence from immigrant experience," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 968-991, September.
    9. Mary Burke & Frank Heiland, 2006. "Social dynamics of obesity," Public Policy Discussion Paper 06-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    10. Courtemanche, Charles, 2008. "Working Yourself to Death? The Relationship Between Work Hours and Obesity," MPRA Paper 25324, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Currie, Janet & DellaVigna, Stefano & Moretti, Enrico & Pathania, Vikram, 2009. "The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity," Working Papers 47830, American Association of Wine Economists.
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