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The Weight of Success: The Body Mass Index and Economic Well-being in South Africa

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  • Martin Wittenberg

    () (DataFirst, SALDRU, School of Economics, University of Cape Town)

Abstract

We show that body mass increases with economics resources among most South Africans, although not all. Among Black South Africans the relationship is non-decreasing over virtually the entire range of incomes/wealth. Furthermore in this groupd other measures of success (e.g. employment and education) are also associated with increases in body mass. This is true both in 1998 (the Demographic and Health Survey) and 2008 (National Income Dynamics Survey). This suggests the body mass can be used as a crude measure of wellbeing. Used in this way it suggests that unemployment is involuntary. This is true even if we control for household fixed effects. This is joint SALDRU/DataFirst Working Paper as part of the Mellon Data Quality Project.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin Wittenberg, 2011. "The Weight of Success: The Body Mass Index and Economic Well-being in South Africa," SALDRU Working Papers 65, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
  • Handle: RePEc:ldr:wpaper:65
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Case, Anne & Menendez, Alicia, 2009. "Sex differences in obesity rates in poor countries: Evidence from South Africa," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, pages 271-282.
    2. Tomas J. Philipson & Richard A. Posner, 1999. "The Long-Run Growth in Obesity as a Function of Technological Change," Working Papers 9912, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
    3. 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.
    4. Filmer, Deon*Pritchett, Lant, 1998. "Estimating wealth effects without expenditure data - or tears : with an application to educational enrollments in states of India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1994, The World Bank.
    5. Martin Wittenberg, 2009. "Weighing the value of Asset Proxies: The case of the Body Mass Index in South Africa," SALDRU Working Papers 39, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    6. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," Working Papers 0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
    7. David E. Sahn & Stephen D. Younger, 2009. "Measuring intra‐household health inequality: explorations using the body mass index," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(S1), pages 13-36, April.
    8. Popkin, Barry M., 1999. "Urbanization, Lifestyle Changes and the Nutrition Transition," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(11), pages 1905-1916, November.
    9. Wittenberg, Martin, 2011. "Estimating expenditure impacts without expenditure data using asset proxies," Economics Letters, Elsevier, pages 122-125.
    10. Molini, Vasco & Nubé, Maarten & van den Boom, Bart, 2010. "Adult BMI as a Health and Nutritional Inequality Measure: Applications at Macro and Micro Levels," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 38(7), pages 1012-1023, July.
    11. Cally Ardington & Boingotlo Gasealahwe, 2012. "Health: Analysis of the NIDS Wave 1 and 2 Datasets," SALDRU Working Papers 80, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
    12. John Cawley, 2000. "Body Weight and Women's Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 7841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    obesity; asset index; body mass index;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • I19 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Other
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty

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