The Unequal Distribution of Body Mass Index: Examining the Effect of State-Level Soft Drink Taxes on Obesity Inequality
Sugar-sweetened beverages have emerged as one of the primary targets in the battle against obesity. Understanding the differential impacts of soda taxes for different obesity categories (e.g., moderate vs. morbidly obese) is critical to assess their full potential to not only reduce obesity rates, but to target those individuals who have the most to gain from a reduction in caloric intake, i.e., the morbidly obese. In this thesis we test two interrelated hypotheses associated with the health and social impacts of soda taxes as a policy instrument to combat obesity in the US. First, using data from a large representative sample of US adults, we assess whether the responsiveness of individuals to soda taxes is related to their body mass index (BMI). Second, we build upon these results to assess the impact of soda taxes on the BMI inequality (i.e., the BMI gap between normal weight and obese people) using weight inequality measures. Results from the analysis indicate that higher soft drink taxes slightly reduce the BMI of the morbidly obese, but not obesity inequality.
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