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Studying the Child Obesity Epidemic With Natural Experiments

  • Robert Sandy
  • Gilbert Liu
  • John Ottensmann
  • Rusty Tchernis
  • Jeffrey Wilson
  • O.T. Ford

We utilize clinical records of successive visits by children to pediatric clinics in Indianapolis to estimate the effects on their body mass of environmental changes near their homes. We compare results for fixed-residence children with those for cross-sectional data. Our environmental factors are fast food restaurants, supermarkets, parks, trails, and violent crimes, and 13 types of recreational amenities derived from the interpretation of annual aerial photographs. We looked for responses to these factors changing within buffers of 0.1, 0.25, 0.5, and 1 mile. We found that cross-sectional estimates are quite different from the Fixed Effects estimates of the impacts of amenities locating near a child. In cross section nearby fast food restaurants were associated with higher BMI and supermarkets with lower BMI. These results were reversed in the FE estimates. The recreational amenities that appear to lower children's BMI were fitness areas, kickball diamonds, and volleyball courts. We estimated that locating these amenities near their homes could reduce the weight of an overweight eight-year old boy by 3 to 6 pounds.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w14989.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14989.

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Date of creation: May 2009
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Publication status: published as Studying the Child Obesity Epidemic with Natural Experiments , Robert Sandy, Gilbert Liu, John Ottensmann, Rusty Tchernis, Jeff Wilson, O. T. Ford. in Economic Aspects of Obesity , Grossman and Mocan. 2011
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14989
Note: HE
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  1. Daniel Millimet & Rusty Tchernis & Muna Hussain, 2007. "School Nutrition Programs and the Incidence of Childhood Obesity," Caepr Working Papers 2007-014, Center for Applied Economics and Policy Research, Economics Department, Indiana University Bloomington.
  2. Neeraj Kaushal, 2007. "Do Food Stamps Cause Obesity? Evidence from Immigrant Experience," NBER Working Papers 12849, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. John Cawley & Chad Meyerhoefer & David Newhouse, 2007. "The impact of state physical education requirements on youth physical activity and overweight," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(12), pages 1287-1301.
  4. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
  5. Mary Burke & Frank Heiland, 2006. "Social dynamics of obesity," Public Policy Discussion Paper 06-5, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  6. Hogan J.W. & Tchernis R., 2004. "Bayesian Factor Analysis for Spatially Correlated Data, With Application to Summarizing Area-Level Material Deprivation From Census Data," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 99, pages 314-324, January.
  7. Michael L. Anderson & David A. Matsa, 2011. "Are Restaurants Really Supersizing America?," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 152-88, January.
  8. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher, 2006. "Reading, Writing, and Refreshments: Are School Finances Contributing to Children’s Obesity?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 41(3).
  9. Courtemanche, Charles, 2008. "Working Yourself to Death? The Relationship Between Work Hours and Obesity," MPRA Paper 25324, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. 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.
  11. Currie, Janet & DellaVigna, Stefano & Moretti, Enrico & Pathania, Vikram, 2009. "The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity," Working Papers 47830, American Association of Wine Economists.
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