Decomposing the American Obesity Epidemic

Federal Trade Commission Working Paper No. 318

21 Pages Posted: 17 May 2013

See all articles by Thomas Koch

Thomas Koch

Government of the United States of America, Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Economics

Nathan Wilson

Government of the United States of America - Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Economics

Date Written: May 14, 2013

Abstract

In recent decades, the prevalence of obesity in America has increased dramatically. Though it has attracted less attention, the demographic composition of the American population also changed during this period. We decompose the increase in the average body mass index of the American population over 30 years and show that demographic changes explain a statistically significant but economically marginal amount of the change. Instead, the rise in average obesity is best explained by increases in BMI within demographic groups. Furthermore, our results indicate that groups' experiences have been heterogeneous with younger women experiencing especially large gains in weight. We uncover some evidence consistent with the hypothesis that this can be at least partially attributed to increased labor force participation.

Keywords: obesity, BMI, demographic change

JEL Classification: I12, I18, H51

Suggested Citation

Koch, Thomas and Wilson, Nathan, Decomposing the American Obesity Epidemic (May 14, 2013). Federal Trade Commission Working Paper No. 318. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2266019 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2266019

Thomas Koch

Government of the United States of America, Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Economics ( email )

601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
United States

Nathan Wilson (Contact Author)

Government of the United States of America - Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Economics ( email )

600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
United States
202 326 3485 (Phone)

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