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Race, social class, and bulimia nervosa

  • Michelle S. Goeree
  • John C. Ham
  • Daniela Iorio

In this paper we explore a serious eating disorder, bulimia nervosa (BN), which afflicts a surprising number of girls in the US. We challenge the long-held belief that BN primarily affects high income White teenagers, using a unique data set on adolescent females evaluated regarding their tendencies towards bulimic behaviors independent of any diagnoses or treatment they have received. Our results reveal that African Americans are more likely to exhibit bulimic behavior than Whites; as are girls from low income families compared to middle and high income families. We use another data set to show that who is diagnosed with an eating disorder is in accord with popular beliefs, suggesting that African American and low-income girls are being under-diagnosed for BN. Our findings have important implications for public policy since they provide direction to policy makers regarding which adolescent females are most at risk for BN. Our results are robust to different model specifications and identifying assumptions.

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File URL: http://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/wp/econwp086.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics - University of Zurich in its series ECON - Working Papers with number 086.

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Date of creation: Jul 2012
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Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:086
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  1. Michelle S. Goeree & John C. Ham & Daniela Iorio, 2009. "Caught in the bulimic trap? Persistence and state dependence of bulimia among young women," IEW - Working Papers 447, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich, revised Jul 2012.
  2. Kemptner, Daniel & Jürges, Hendrik & Reinhold, Steffen, 2011. "Changes in compulsory schooling and the causal effect of education on health: Evidence from Germany," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 340-354, March.
  3. Khanam, Rasheda & Nghiem, Hong Son & Connelly, Luke B., 2009. "Child health and the income gradient: Evidence from Australia," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 805-817, July.
  4. Michelle Goeree & John Ham & Daniela Iorio, 2011. "Caught in the Bulimic Trap? Persistence and State Dependence of Bulimia Among Young Women," Working Papers 2011-033, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  5. Anirban Basu & James J. Heckman & Salvador Navarro-Lozano & Sergio Urzua, 2007. "Use of instrumental variables in the presence of heterogeneity and self-selection: an application to treatments of breast cancer patients," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(11), pages 1133-1157.
  6. Thompson, Owen, 2011. "Racial disparities in the cognition-health relationship," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 328-339, March.
  7. Tenn, Steven & Herman, Douglas A. & Wendling, Brett, 2010. "The role of education in the production of health: An empirical analysis of smoking behavior," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 404-417, May.
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