The Socio-Economic Causes of Obesity

47 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2011 Last revised: 2 Oct 2011

See all articles by Charles L. Baum

Charles L. Baum

Middle Tennessee State University - Department of Economics and Finance

Shin-Yi Chou

Lehigh University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 2011

Abstract

An increasing number of Americans are obese, with a body mass index of 30 or more. In fact, the latest estimates indicate that about 30% of Americans are currently obese, which is roughly a 100% increase from 25 years ago. It is well accepted that weight gain is caused by caloric imbalance, where more calories are consumed than expended. Nevertheless, it is not clear why the prevalence of obesity has increased so dramatically over the last 30 years.We simultaneously estimate the effects of the various socio-economic factors on weight status, considering in our analysis many of the socio-economic factors that have been identified by other researchers as important influences on caloric imbalance: employment, physical activity at work, food prices, the prevalence of restaurants, cigarette smoking, cigarette prices and taxes, food stamp receipt, and urbanization. We use 1979- and 1997-cohort National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) data, which allows us to compare the prevalence of obesity between cohorts surveyed roughly 25 years apart. Using the traditional Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition technique, we find that cigarette smoking has the largest effect: the decline in cigarette smoking explains about 2% of the increase in the weight measures. The other significant factors explain less.

Suggested Citation

Baum, Charles L. and Chou, Shin-Yi, The Socio-Economic Causes of Obesity (September 2011). NBER Working Paper No. w17423. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1931194

Charles L. Baum (Contact Author)

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/

Shin-Yi Chou

Lehigh University - Department of Economics ( email )

620 Taylor Street
Bethlehem, PA 18015
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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