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Overweight and Poor? On the Relationship between Income and the Body Mass Index

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  • Jolliffe, Dean

    () (World Bank)

Abstract

Contrary to conventional wisdom, NHANES data indicate that the poor have never had a statistically significant higher prevalence of overweight status at any time in the last 35 years. Despite this empirical evidence, the view that the poor are less healthy in terms of excess accumulation of fat persists. This paper provides evidence that conventional wisdom is reflecting important differences in the relationship between income and the body mass index. The first finding is based on distribution-sensitive measures of overweight which indicates that the severity of overweight has been higher for the poor than the nonpoor throughout the last 35 years. The second finding is from a newly introduced estimator, unconditional quantile regression (UQR), which provides a measure of the income-gradient in BMI at different points on the unconditional BMI distribution. The UQR estimator indicates that the strongest relationship between income and BMI is observed at the tails of the distribution. There is a strong negative income gradient in BMI at the obesity threshold and some evidence of a positive gradient at the underweight threshold. Both of these UQR estimates imply that for those at the tails of the BMI distribution, increases in income are correlated with healthier BMI values.

Suggested Citation

  • Jolliffe, Dean, 2010. "Overweight and Poor? On the Relationship between Income and the Body Mass Index," IZA Discussion Papers 5366, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5366
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Karina Acosta, 2012. "La obesidad y su concentración según nivel socioeconómico en Colombia," REVISTA DE ECONOMÍA DEL ROSARIO, UNIVERSIDAD DEL ROSARIO, July.
    2. Tafreschi, Darjusch, 2015. "The income body weight gradients in the developing economy of China," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 16(C), pages 115-134.
    3. Davillas, A.; Jones, A.M.; Benzeval, M.;, 2017. "The income-health gradient: Evidence from self-reported health and biomarkers using longitudinal data on income," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 17/04, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    4. Böhme, Marcus H. & Persian, Ruth & Stöhr, Tobias, 2015. "Alone but better off? Adult child migration and health of elderly parents in Moldova," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 211-227.
    5. Strulik, Holger, 2014. "A mass phenomenon: The social evolution of obesity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 113-125.
    6. Rosinger, Asher & Tanner, Susan & Leonard, William R., 2013. "Precursors to overnutrition: The effects of household market food expenditures on measures of body composition among Tsimane' adults in lowland Bolivia," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 53-60.
    7. Stewart, Hayden & Hyman, Jeffrey & Dong, Diansheng, 2014. "Menu Labeling Imparts New Information About the Calorie Content of Restaurant Foods," Economic Research Report 191035, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    8. Daouli, Joan & Davillas, Apostolos & Demoussis, Michael & Giannakopoulos, Nicholas, 2013. "The determinants of body mass in Greece: Evidence from the National Health Survey," MPRA Paper 66392, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    overweight; obesity; body mass index; unconditional quantile regression; Foster-Greer-Thorbecke poverty measures; NHANES;

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty

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