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The transition to Post-industrial BMI values among US children

  • Komlos, John
  • Breitfelder, Ariane
  • Sunder, Marco

Background: The trend in the BMI values of US children has not been estimated very convincingly because of the absence of longitudinal data. Our object is to estimate time series of BMI values by birth cohorts instead of measurement years. Methods: We use five regression models to estimate the BMI trends of non-Hispanic US-born black and white children and adolescents ages 2-19 between 1941 and 2004. Results: The increase in BMIZ values during the period considered was 1.3σ (95% CI: 1.16σ; 1.44σ) among black girls, 0.8σ for black boys, 0.7σ for white boys, and 0.6σ for white girls. This translates into an increase in BMI values of some 5.6, 3.3, 2.4, and 1.5 units respectively. While the increase in BMI values started among the birth cohorts of the 1940s among black girls, the rate of increase tended to accelerate among all four ethnic/gender groups born in the mid-1950s – early-1960s. Conclusion: Some regional evidence leads to the conjecture that the spread of automobiles and radios affected the BMI values of boys already in the interwar period. We suppose that the changes in lifestyle associated with the labor saving technological developments of the 20th century are associated with the weight gains observed. The increased popularity of television viewing was most prominently associated with the contemporaneous acceleration in BMI gain.

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Paper provided by University of Munich, Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers in Economics with number 4304.

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Date of creation: 08 Jun 2008
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Handle: RePEc:lmu:muenec:4304
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  1. Shin-Yi Chou & Inas Rashad & Michael Grossman, 2005. "Fast-Food Restaurant Advertising on Television and Its Influence on Childhood Obesity," NBER Working Papers 11879, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. John Komlos, . "The Height and Weight of West Point Cadets: Dietary Change in Antebellum America," Articles by John Komlos 32, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
  4. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher & Phillip B. Levine, 2003. "Economic perspectives on childhood obesity," Economic Perspectives, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, issue Q III, pages 30-48.
  5. Offer, Avner, 2007. "The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199216628, March.
  6. John Komlos & Peter Coclanis, . "Nutrition and Economic Development in Post-Reconstruction South Carolina: an Anthropometric Approach," Articles by John Komlos 15, Department of Economics, University of Munich.
  7. Adonis Yatchew, 1998. "Nonparametric Regression Techniques in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 669-721, June.
  8. Sara Bleich & David Cutler & Christopher Murray & Alyce Adams, 2007. "Why Is The Developed World Obese?," NBER Working Papers 12954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Komlos, John & Baur, Marieluise, 2004. "From the tallest to (one of) the fattest: the enigmatic fate of the American population in the 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 57-74, March.
  10. Lang, Stefan & Sunder, Marco, 2003. "Non-parametric regression with BayesX: a flexible estimation of trends in human physical stature in 19th century America," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 77-89, January.
  11. Shin-Yi Chou & Michael Grossman & Henry Saffer, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," NBER Working Papers 9247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Dora L. Costa & Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Long-Term Trends in Health, Welfare, and Economic Growth in the United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson & Jay Bhattacharya, 2005. "Welfare-Enhancing Technological Change and the Growth of Obesity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 253-257, May.
  14. Tomas J. Philipson & Richard A. Posner, 1999. "The Long-Run Growth in Obesity as a Function of Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 7423, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Costa, Dora L., 2004. "The Measure of Man and Older Age Mortality: Evidence from the Gould Sample," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(01), pages 1-23, March.
  16. 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.
  17. Rosenbaum, Paul R., 2005. "Heterogeneity and Causality: Unit Heterogeneity and Design Sensitivity in Observational Studies," The American Statistician, American Statistical Association, vol. 59, pages 147-152, May.
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