Age, Socioeconomic Status and Obesity Growth

51 Pages Posted: 9 Aug 2007 Last revised: 25 Apr 2021

See all articles by Charles L. Baum

Charles L. Baum

Middle Tennessee State University - Department of Economics and Finance

Christopher J. Ruhm

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: August 2007

Abstract

The rapid growth in obesity represents a major public concern. Although body weight tends to increase with age, the evolution of obesity over the lifecycle is not well understood. We use longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to examine how body weight changes with age for a cohort moving through early adulthood. We further investigate how the age-obesity gradient differs with socioeconomic status (SES) and begin to examine channels for these SES disparities. Our analysis uncovers three main findings. First, weight rises with age but is inversely related to SES at given ages. Second, the SES-obesity gradient widens over the lifecycle, a result consistent with research examining other health outcomes such as overall status or specific medical conditions. Third, a substantial portion of the SES "effect" is transmitted through race/ethnicity and the translation of advantaged family backgrounds during childhood into high levels of subsequent education. Conversely, little of the SES difference appears to be propagated through family income, marital status, number of children, or the set of health behaviors we control for. However, approximately half of the SES-weight correlation persists after the inclusion of controls, illustrating the need for further study of mechanisms for the gradient.

Suggested Citation

Baum, Charles L. and Ruhm, Christopher J., Age, Socioeconomic Status and Obesity Growth (August 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w13289, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1005602

Charles L. Baum

Middle Tennessee State University - Department of Economics and Finance ( email )

BAS N316
Box 27
Murfreesboro, TN 37132
United States
615-898-2527 (Phone)
615-898-5596 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.mtsu.edu/~cbaum/

Christopher J. Ruhm (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy ( email )

235 McCormick Rd.
P.O. Box 400893
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4893
United States
434-924-7581 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://batten.virginia.edu/cruhm.html

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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