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The U.S. Obesity Epidemic:New Evidence from the Economic Security Index

  • Smith, Trenton G.
  • Stillman, Steven
  • Craig, Stuart

A growing body of research supports the "economic insecurity" theory of obesity, which posits that uncertainty with respect to one's material well- being may be an important root cause of the modern obesity epidemic. This literature has been limited in the past by a lack of reliable measures of economic insecurity. In this paper we use the newly developed Economic Security Index to explain changes in U.S. adult obesity rates as measured by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 1988-2010, a period capturing much of the recent rapid rise in obesity. We find a robust positive and statistically significant relationship between obesity and economic insecurity that holds for nearly every age, gender, and race/ethnicity group in our data, both in cross-section and over time.

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Paper provided by Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in its series 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. with number 151419.

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Date of creation: Jun 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea13:151419
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  1. Trenton Smith, 2006. "Reconciling Psychology with Economics - Obesity, Behavioral Biology, and Rational Overeating," Working Papers 2006-4, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University.
  2. Ruhm, Christopher J., 2005. "Healthy living in hard times," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 341-363, March.
  3. Hacker, Jacob S. & Huber, Gregory Alain & Nichols, Austin & Rehm, Philipp & Schlesinger, Mark & Valletta, Robert G. & Craig, Stuart, 2012. "The Economic Security Index: A New Measure for Research and Policy Analysis," IZA Discussion Papers 6946, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. 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.
  5. Smith Trenton G. & Stoddard Christiana & Barnes Michael G, 2009. "Why the Poor Get Fat: Weight Gain and Economic Insecurity," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(2), pages 1-31, June.
  6. Offer, Avner & Pechey, Rachel & Ulijaszek, Stanley, 2010. "Obesity under affluence varies by welfare regimes: The effect of fast food, insecurity, and inequality," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 297-308, December.
  7. Trenton G. Smith, 2012. "Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit Not Fat," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 94(3), pages 815-817.
  8. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2000. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(2), pages 617-650, May.
  9. Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  10. Jon D. Wisman & Kevin W. Capehart, 2010. "Insecurity, Stress, and Epidemic Obesity," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 69(3), pages 936-982, 07.
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