Saturday, April 05, 2008

Body Fat and Income

04/18/08 Revised

Today I joined the seminar, whose guest speaker is Olga Yakusheva of Marquette University. Her research caught my eye: "The relationship between Body Fat and Income: Skinny Bodies and Thin Wallets?" It sounds interesting, doesn't it?

She uses data on over 15,000 individuals from the four most recent cohorts of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to determine the relationship between a person's body fat (measured by Body Mass Index) and their socioeconomic status, measured by family income and examine its source.

Her study shows that obesity is most prevalent among low-income women and middle-income men, compared to other socioeconomic groups and that lower rates of obesity among upper class men and women, and lower class men, are not explained by differences in physical activity levels(in-home, at-work and at-leisure), and only marginally explained by differences in eating habits.

She says that the possibility could be pointed out that the relationship between income and body fat in the adult population has its roots in people's childhood and young adulthood experiences even though the source of the correlation between body fat and income is not fully explained.

Moreover, a more precise targeting of obesity prevention policies to specific socioeconomic groups where obesity is most prevalent.

While listening to her, I was just wondering whether there should be such studies related to Japan and other countries.

As some professors said to her in the seminar, it should be also important for such studies to look at another relationship between geography, and inheritance and body fat. However, it looks somewhat difficult to look at such relationships because of the lack of available and reliable data set.


Prof. Olga emailed me later:

Dear Taro,

Thanks for your email - I found a lot of your ideas very interesting. Most definitely, doing a time-series type of analysis would be interesting, but there aren't data for that....

Olga Yakusheva
Economics Department
Marquette University

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