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Does More Money Make You Fat? The Effects of Quasi-Experimental Income Transfers on Adolescent and Young Adult Obesity

  • Akee, Randall K. Q.

    ()

    (University of California, Los Angeles)

  • Simeonova, Emilia

    ()

    (Tufts University)

  • Copeland, William

    ()

    (Duke University)

  • Angold, Adrian

    ()

    (Duke University)

  • Costello, Jane E.

    ()

    (Duke University)

This paper examines how exogenous income transfers during adolescence affect contemporaneous body mass index (BMI) measures and young adult obesity rates using evidence from the Great Smoky Mountains Study of Youth. The effects of extra income differ depending on the households’ initial socio-economic status, tracing out an inverted U-shaped relationship between initial income and BMI. Youths who resided in families that had high pre-treatment annual incomes experience no change in young adult obesity rates as a result of the income transfers, while the BMI of poorer children increases. Part of this effect is due to differential increases in height, as well as weight. An exogenous annual transfer of $4,000 per adult family member results in an almost 4 cm gain in height-for-age. Adolescents coming from worse-off households experience an increase in weight only, without the corresponding change in height. The cumulative effects of the increase in household income persist for several years into young adulthood.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5135.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2010
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as 'Young Adult Obesity and Household Income: Effects of Unconditional Cash Transfers', American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2013, 5 (2), 1-28
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5135
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  1. Edmonds, Eric V., 2007. "Child Labor," IZA Discussion Papers 2606, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Hoddinott, John & Skoufias, Emmanual, 2003. "The impact of Progresa on food consumption," FCND discussion papers 150, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
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  7. Trenton Smith & Christiana Stoddard & Michael G. Barnes, 2007. "Why the Poor Get Fat: Weight Gain and Economic Insecurity," Working Papers 2007-16, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University.
  8. 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.
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  10. Naci Mocan & Erdal Tekin, 2011. "Obesity, Self-Esteem and Wages," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Aspects of Obesity, pages 349-380 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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