Impact of Income on the Bmi and Clinical Weight Classification Of Elderly Americans
Posted: 14 Jun 2007
Elderly who are obese or underweight are at risk of higher morbidity, lower quality of life, and higher mortality. This paper tests how one important policy lever, Social Security income, affects the BMI and clinical weight classification of elderly Americans. To answer this research question, we make use of a natural experiment that led otherwise identical retirees to receive significantly different Social Security payments based on their year of birth. This natural experiment, the Social Security benefits notch", was the result of an error in the way benefits were indexed for inflation, coupled with a subsequent modification of the benefits formula to correct the initial mistake. The specific way we exploit this natural experiment is by estimating models of instrumental variables using data from the National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS). The results of the proposed research will be useful for understanding how income transfers affect the weight (and, therefore, health) of the elderly. The results may also be useful more generally, as they may also shed light on the effect of income on BMI and clinical weight classification for the broader population. Little is known about how income causally affects weight, either for the elderly in particular or for the U.S. population in general, and this proposed research will fill this gap in the literature. The answers to this research question have implications for better understanding the causes of the recent rise in obesity and the relationship between socioeconomic status and obesity.
Keywords: obesity, income, social security, health
JEL Classification: I1
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation