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Economic Contextual Factors and Child Body Mass Index


  • Lisa M. Powell
  • Frank J. Chaloupka


This study examines the relationship between child weight and fast food and fruit and vegetable prices and the availability of fast food restaurants, full-service restaurants, supermarkets, grocery stores and convenience stores. We estimate cross-sectional and individual-level fixed effects (FE) models to account for unobserved individual-level heterogeneity. Data are drawn from the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics combined with external food price and outlet density data at the zip code level. FE results show that higher fruit and vegetable prices are statistically significantly related to a higher body mass index (BMI) percentile ranking among children with greater effects among low-income children: fruit and vegetable price elasticity for BMI is estimated to be 0.25 for the full sample and 0.60 among low-income children. Fast food prices are statistically significantly related to child weight only in cross-sectional models among low-income children with a price elasticity of -0.77. Increased supermarket availability and fewer available convenience stores are related with lower weight outcomes among low-income children. These results provide evidence on the potential effectiveness of using fiscal pricing interventions such as taxes and subsidies and other interventions to improve supermarket access as policy instruments to address childhood obesity.

Suggested Citation

  • Lisa M. Powell & Frank J. Chaloupka, 2009. "Economic Contextual Factors and Child Body Mass Index," NBER Working Papers 15046, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15046
    Note: HE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Oliveira, Victor & Frazao, Elizabeth, 2009. "The WIC Program: Background, Trends, and Economic Issues, 2009 Edition," Economic Research Report 55839, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
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    9. Powell, Lisa M., 2009. "Fast food costs and adolescent body mass index: Evidence from panel data," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 963-970, September.
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    12. Guthrie, Joanne F. & Frazao, Elizabeth & Andrews, Margaret S. & Smallwood, David M., 2007. "Improving Food Choices-Can Food Stamps Do More?," Amber Waves, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May.
    13. Alan C. Monheit & Jessica P. Vistnes & Jeannette A. Rogowski, 2007. "Overweight in Adolescents: Implications for Health Expenditures," NBER Working Papers 13488, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Powell, Lisa M. & Wada, Roy & Krauss, Ramona C. & Wang, Youfa, 2012. "Ethnic disparities in adolescent body mass index in the United States: The role of parental socioeconomic status and economic contextual factors," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(3), pages 469-476.

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    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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