There’s a lot of paternalistic talk in the health world.  The assumption is that poor people are more likely to be obese than non-poor.  Here’s a new study that argues otherwise, with a couple twists:

“Contrary to conventional wisdom, NHANES data indicate that the poor have never had a statistically significant higher prevalence of overweight status at any time in the last 35 years. Despite this empirical evidence, the view that the poor are less healthy in terms of excess accumulation of fat persists. This paper provides evidence that conventional wisdom is reflecting important differences in the relationship between income and the body mass index. The first finding is based on distribution-sensitive measures of overweight which indicates that the severity of overweight has been higher for the poor than the nonpoor throughout the last 35 years. The second finding is from a newly introduced estimator, unconditional quantile regression (UQR), which provides a measure of the income-gradient in BMI at different points on the unconditional BMI distribution. The UQR estimator indicates that the strongest relationship between income and BMI is observed at the tails of the distribution. There is a statistically significant negative income gradient in BMI at the obesity threshold and some evidence of a positive gradient at the underweight threshold. Both of these UQR estimates imply that for those at the tails of the BMI distribution, increases in income are correlated with healthier BMI values.

Here is the full paper (ungated).  Hat tip to Robin Hanson

Here  aH


2 Responses to “Are the poor actually more obese than the rich?”

  1. Mark Frederick says:

     So basically you get fat then you get poor…? That makes sense actually as a significant increase in weight would lead to poorer cognitive function, lowered social interaction, and more days away from work due to illness.

    • Carlos Morales says:

      They used BMI as an indication for obesity. BMI is historically inaccurate when used as a an indicator for obesity – a man  with 5% body fat at 6’2 and 250 has the BMI as a man who is at 20% body fat with the same weight to height ratio. Fat percentage, although a more costly endeavor for a large study, is a vastly better resarch tool for this study.

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