Differences in the U.S. Trends in the Prevalence of Obesity Based on Body Mass Index and Skinfold Thickness

28 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2009 Last revised: 17 Jan 2014

See all articles by Richard V. Burkhauser

Richard V. Burkhauser

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM); University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute

John Cawley

Cornell University - College of Human Ecology, Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM); Cornell University - College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Economics; Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE); National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) - J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics; NBER; IZA

Maximilian D. Schmeiser

Amazon Lending

Date Written: May 2009

Abstract

There are several ways to measure fatness and obesity, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The primary measure for tracking the prevalence of obesity has historically been body mass index (BMI). This paper compares long-run trends in the prevalence of obesity when obesity is defined using skinfold thickness instead of body mass index (BMI), using data from the full series of U.S. National Health Examination Surveys. The results indicate that when one uses skinfold thicknesses rather than BMI to define obesity, the rise in the prevalence of obesity is detectable ten to twenty years earlier. This underscores the importance of examining multiple measures of fatness when monitoring or otherwise studying obesity.

Suggested Citation

Burkhauser, Richard V. and Cawley, John and Schmeiser, Maximilian D., Differences in the U.S. Trends in the Prevalence of Obesity Based on Body Mass Index and Skinfold Thickness (May 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1412017

Richard V. Burkhauser

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM) ( email )

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University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute ( email )

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John Cawley (Contact Author)

Cornell University - College of Human Ecology, Department of Policy Analysis & Management (PAM) ( email )

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Cornell University - College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Economics ( email )

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Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) ( email )

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National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG) - J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics ( email )

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NBER

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IZA ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
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Germany

Maximilian D. Schmeiser

Amazon Lending ( email )

Seattle, WA 98144
United States

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