Are the Poor Getting Fatter than Everyone Else?

No. HT to Robin Hanson:

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.

See study abstract here.

Comments (6)

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  1. Sydney says:

    Wow, that’s interesting. It’s always been a general assumption for me that since cheaper food is significantly less healthy, poor people tended to be more fat than those more affluent, who could afford natural, organic, and healthier grocery items/restaurants.

  2. Anne Alice says:

    Virginia has a point. Starch and fat cost a fraction of good quality protein, vegetables and fruit. If your choice is to feed all the family, the poor have to stretch food dollars. Fillers are not high on the food quality scale.

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    There are theories that people with less money discount the future at a greater social time preference (i.e. discount rate). Eating is both cheap and enjoyable. If you cannot afford vacations, nights at the opera or dinning at fancy restaurants, a nice meal of confort food at home is a cost-effective way to entertain yourself.

  4. Vicki says:

    This is definitely counter to what we have been made to believe and even counter to my personal observation. Hard to reconcile all this.

  5. Linda Gorman says:

    When it seems hard to reconcile, read the paper. Contrary to the headline it does provide evidence that income is inversely correlated with obesity.

    In the actual words of the paper abstract: “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.”

    Translation: the really obese (the right tail of the BMI distribution) tend to have low incomes (increases in income are correlated with healthier BMI values).

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