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Indebted and Overweight: The Link Between Weight and Household Debt

  • Averett, Susan L.


    (Lafayette College)

  • Smith, Julie K.


    (Lafayette College)

There is a substantial correlation between household debt and bodyweight. Theory suggests that a causal relationship between debt and bodyweight could run in either direction or both could be caused by unobserved common factors. We use OLS and Propensity Score Matching to ascertain if household debt (measured by credit card indebtedness and having trouble paying bills) is a potential cause of obesity. We find a strong positive correlation between debt and weight for women but this seems driven largely by unobservables. In contrast, men with trouble paying their bills are thinner and this is robust to various specification checks.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 6898.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as 'Financial hardship and obesity' in: Economics and Human Biology, 2014, 15, 201-212 [Online First]
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6898
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  1. Caliendo, Marco & Lee, Wang-Sheng, 2011. "Fat Chance! Obesity and the Transition from Unemployment to Employment," IZA Discussion Papers 5795, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Dehejia, Rajeev, 2005. "Practical propensity score matching: a reply to Smith and Todd," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 125(1-2), pages 355-364.
  3. Sascha O. Becker & Marco Caliendo, 2007. "Sensitivity analysis for average treatment effects," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 7(1), pages 71-83, February.
  4. repec:zbw:rwirep:0234 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Charles Michalopoulos & Howard S. Bloom & Carolyn J. Hill, 2004. "Can Propensity-Score Methods Match the Findings from a Random Assignment Evaluation of Mandatory Welfare-to-Work Programs?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 156-179, February.
  6. Edwin Leuven & Barbara Sianesi, 2003. "PSMATCH2: Stata module to perform full Mahalanobis and propensity score matching, common support graphing, and covariate imbalance testing," Statistical Software Components S432001, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 19 Jan 2015.
  7. Angela C. Lyons & Tansel Yilmazer, 2005. "Health and Financial Strain: Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 873-890, April.
  8. Marco Caliendo & Sabine Kopeinig, 2005. "Some Practical Guidance for the Implementation of Propensity Score Matching," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 485, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  9. Irina Grafova, 2007. "Your Money or Your Life: Managing Health, Managing Money," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 28(2), pages 285-303, June.
  10. 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.
  11. Zhong Zhao, 2004. "Using Matching to Estimate Treatment Effects: Data Requirements, Matching Metrics, and Monte Carlo Evidence," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(1), pages 91-107, February.
  12. Rajeev H. Dehejia & Sadek Wahba, 2002. "Propensity Score-Matching Methods For Nonexperimental Causal Studies," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 151-161, February.
  13. 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.
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