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Effects of Urban Sprawl on Obesity

  • Zhenxiang Zhao
  • Robert Kaestner

In this paper, we examine the effect of changes in population density--urban sprawl--between 1970 and 2000 on BMI and obesity of residents in metropolitan areas in the US. We address the possible endogeneity of population density by using a two-step instrumental variables approach. We exploit the plausibly exogenous variation in population density caused by the expansion of the U.S. Interstate Highway System, which largely followed the original 1947 plan for the Interstate Highway System. We find a negative association between population density and obesity and estimates are robust across a wide range of specifications. Estimates indicate that if the average metropolitan area had not experienced the decline in the proportion of population living in dense areas over the last 30 years, the rate of obesity would have been reduced by approximately 13%.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15436.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15436.

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Date of creation: Oct 2009
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Publication status: published as Zhao, Zhenxiang & Kaestner, Robert, 2010. "Effects of urban sprawl on obesity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 779-787, December.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15436
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  1. Andrew J. Plantinga & Stephanie Bernell, 2007. "The Association Between Urban Sprawl And Obesity: Is It A Two-Way Street?," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(5), pages 857-879.
  2. Peter Mieszkowski & Edwin S. Mills, 1993. "The Causes of Metropolitan Suburbanization," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 135-147, Summer.
  3. Andrew J. Plantinga & Stephanie Bernell, 2007. "Can Urban Planning Reduce Obesity? The Role of Self-Selection in Explaining the Link between Weight and Urban Sprawl ," Review of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 29(3), pages 557-563.
  4. Beydoun, May A. & Powell, Lisa M. & Wang, Youfa, 2008. "The association of fast food, fruit and vegetable prices with dietary intakes among US adults: Is there modification by family income?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(11), pages 2218-2229, June.
  5. Murphy, Kevin M & Topel, Robert H, 1985. "Estimation and Inference in Two-Step Econometric Models," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 3(4), pages 370-79, October.
  6. Nathaniel Baum-Snow, 2007. "Did Highways Cause Suburbanization?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(2), pages 775-805, 05.
  7. Eid, Jean & Overman, Henry G. & Puga, Diego & Turner, Matthew A., 2008. "Fat city: Questioning the relationship between urban sprawl and obesity," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 385-404, March.
  8. James W. Hardin, 2002. "The robust variance estimator for two-stage models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 2(3), pages 253-266, August.
  9. James W. Hardin & Raymond J. Carroll, 2003. "Variance estimation for the instrumental variables approach to measurement error in generalized linear models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 3(4), pages 342-350, December.
  10. Stafford, Mai & Cummins, Steven & Ellaway, Anne & Sacker, Amanda & Wiggins, Richard D. & Macintyre, Sally, 2007. "Pathways to obesity: Identifying local, modifiable determinants of physical activity and diet," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(9), pages 1882-1897, November.
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