, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 199-220

Veteran Status and Body Weight: A Longitudinal Fixed-Effects Approach

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Abstract

About 10–12 % of young men (and increasingly, women) have served a term in the military. Yet, we know relatively little about the consequences of military service for the lives of those who serve. In this article, we provide estimates of the relationship between men’s peacetime military service during the all-volunteer era (AVE) and body weight using longitudinal data on 6,304 men taken from the National Longitudinal Survey of 1979 (NLSY-79). Using fixed-effects estimators on up to 13 years of data and numerous controls for time-varying life-course characteristics linked to body weight, we find that veterans of active-duty military service have higher levels of BMI and obesity. We argue that eating habits learned during service, coupled with patterns of physical activity, lead to a situation whereby veterans making the transition to less active civilian lifestyles gain weight that is not lost over time.