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Why the Poor Get Fat: Weight Gain and Economic Insecurity

Author

Listed:
  • Trenton Smith
  • Christiana Stoddard
  • Michael G. Barnes

    () (School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University)

Abstract

Something about being poor makes people fat. Though there are many possible explanations for the income-body weight gradient, we investigate a promising butlittle-studied hypothesis: that economic insecurity acts as an independent cause of weight gain. We use data on working age men from the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) to identify the effect of various measures of economic insecurity on weight gain. We find in particular that over the 12-year period between 1988 and 2000, a one point (0.01) increase in the probability of becoming unemployed causes weight gain over this period to increase by about one pound, and each realized drop in annual income results in an increase of about 5.5 pounds. The mechanism also appears to work in reverse, with health insurance and government "social safety net" payments leading to smaller weight gains.

Suggested Citation

  • Trenton Smith & Christiana Stoddard & Michael G. Barnes, 2007. "Why the Poor Get Fat: Weight Gain and Economic Insecurity," Working Papers 2007-16, School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University.
  • Handle: RePEc:wsu:wpaper:tgsmith-2
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    File URL: http://faculty.ses.wsu.edu/WorkingPapers/tsmith/Insecurity033007.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    obesity; unemployment; moral hazard; NLSY79;

    JEL classification:

    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J65 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment Insurance; Severance Pay; Plant Closings

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