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Race, Social Class, and Bulimia Nervosa

  • John Ham

    (University of Maryland)

  • Daniela Iorio

    (Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona)

  • Michelle Sovinsky

    ()

    (University of Zurich)

In this paper we explore a serious eating disorder, bulimia nervosa (BN), which afflicts a surprising number of girls in the US. We challenge the long-held belief that BN primarily affects high income White teenagers, using a unique data set on adolescent females evaluated regarding their tendencies towards bulimic behaviors independent of any diagnoses or treatment they have received. Our results reveal that African Americans are more likely to exhibit bulimic behavior than Whites; as are girls from low income families compared to middle and high income families. We use another data set to show that who is diagnosed with an eating disorder is in accord with popular beliefs, suggesting that African American and low-income girls are being under-diagnosed for BN. Our findings have important implications for public policy since they provide direction to policy makers regarding which adolescent females are most at risk for BN. Our results are robust to different model specifications and identifying assumptions.

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File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Ham_Iorio_Sovinsky_2012_race-class-bulimia.pdf
File Function: First version, August, 2012
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Paper provided by Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group in its series Working Papers with number 2012-016.

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Date of creation: Aug 2012
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Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2012-016
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  1. Owen Thompson, 2011. "Racial Disparities in the Cognition-Health Relationship," UMASS Amherst Economics Working Papers 2011-02, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Economics.
  2. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
  3. Jeffrey M Wooldridge, 2002. "Simple solutions to the initial conditions problem in dynamic, nonlinear panel data models with unobserved heterogeneity," CeMMAP working papers CWP18/02, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  4. Michelle Goeree & John Ham & Daniela Iorio, 2011. "Caught in the Bulimic Trap? Persistence and State Dependence of Bulimia Among Young Women," Working Papers 2011-033, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  5. Tomas Philipson & Richard Posner, 2008. "Is the Obesity Epidemic a Public Health Problem? A Decade of Research on the Economics of Obesity," NBER Working Papers 14010, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Kemptner, Daniel & Jürges, Hendrik & Reinhold, Steffen, 2011. "Changes in compulsory schooling and the causal effect of education on health: Evidence from Germany," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 340-354, March.
  7. Anirban Basu & James J. Heckman & Salvador Navarro-Lozano & Sergio Urzua, 2007. "Use of instrumental variables in the presence of heterogeneity and self-selection: an application to treatments of breast cancer patients," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(11), pages 1133-1157.
  8. Tenn, Steven & Herman, Douglas A. & Wendling, Brett, 2010. "The role of education in the production of health: An empirical analysis of smoking behavior," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 404-417, May.
  9. Khanam, Rasheda & Nghiem, Hong Son & Connelly, Luke B., 2008. "Child Health and the Income Gradient: Evidence from Australia," MPRA Paper 13959, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. James P. Smith, 2007. "The Impact of Socioeconomic Status on Health over the Life-Course," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(4).
  11. Tomas J. Philipson & Richard A. Posner, 2008. "Is the Obesity Epidemic a Public Health Problem? A Review of Zoltan J. Acs and Alan Lyles's Obesity, Business and Public Policy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(4), pages 974-82, December.
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