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The effects of female labor force participation on obesity

  • Pere Gomis-Porqueras
  • Oscar A. Mitnik
  • Adrian Peralta-Alva
  • Maximilian D. Schmeiser

This paper assesses whether a causal relationship exists between recent increases in female labor force participation and the increased prevalence of obesity amongst women. The expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in the 1980s and 1990s have been established by prior literature as having generated variation in female labor supply, particularly amongst single mothers. Here, we use this plausibly exogenous variation in female labor supply to identify the effect of labor force participation on obesity status. We use data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and replicate labor supply effects of the EITC expansions found in previous literature. This validates employing a difference-in-differences estimation strategy in the NHIS data, as has been done in several other data sets. Depending on the specification, we find that increased labor force participation can account for at most 19% of the observed change in obesity prevalence over our sample period. Our preferred specification, however, suggests that there is no causal link between increased female labor force participation and increased obesity.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2011-035.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2011-035
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  1. 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.
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  4. Cawley, John (ed.), 2011. "The Oxford Handbook of the Social Science of Obesity," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199736362, March.
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  6. Jeffrey M Wooldridge, 2010. "Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 2, volume 1, number 0262232588, June.
  7. Bruce D. Meyer & Dan T. Rosenbaum, 2001. "Welfare, The Earned Income Tax Credit, And The Labor Supply Of Single Mothers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(3), pages 1063-1114, August.
  8. Maria Cancian & Arik Levinson, 2005. "Labor Supply Effects of the Earned Income Tax Credit: Evidence from Wisconsin Supplemental Benefit for Families with Three Children," NBER Working Papers 11454, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Nada Eissa & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1995. "Labor Supply Response to the Earned Income Tax Credit," NBER Working Papers 5158, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2007. "Labor Supply and Weight," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(1).
  11. Helen H. Jensen & Steven T. Yen, 1996. "Food Expenditures Away From Home by Type of Meal," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 44(1), pages 67-80, 03.
  12. Eissa, Nada & Hoynes, Hilary Williamson, 2004. "Taxes and the labor market participation of married couples: the earned income tax credit," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1931-1958, August.
  13. Maximilian D. Schmeiser, 2009. "Expanding wallets and waistlines: the impact of family income on the BMI of women and men eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(11), pages 1277-1294.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson & Jay Bhattacharya, 2005. "Welfare-Enhancing Technological Change and the Growth of Obesity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 253-257, May.
  17. Pere Gomis-Porqueras & Adrian Peralta-Alva, 2008. "A macroeconomic analysis of obesity," Working Papers 2008-017, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  18. Raj Chetty & Emmanuel Saez, 2013. "Teaching the Tax Code: Earnings Responses to an Experiment with EITC Recipients," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(1), pages 1-31, January.
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