Journal of Gastrointestinal Cancer

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 3–7

Socio-economic Status, Forms of Capital and Obesity

Review Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12029-012-9366-5

Cite this article as:
Ulijaszek, S.J. J Gastrointest Canc (2012) 43: 3. doi:10.1007/s12029-012-9366-5

Abstract

Introduction

While the relationships among socio-economic status (SES) and obesity are powerful and synergistic, the SES construct is insufficient to describe some of the cultural influences on status production in society, and therefore on obesity production. Socio-economic status has two closely related dimensions. The economic one is represented by financial wealth while the social one can incorporate education, occupational prestige, authority and community standing. These are, however, incomplete explanations for the relationships between societal inequalities and obesity.

Discussion

Cultural factors associated with SES and obesity are examined here by using Bourdieu and Boltanski’s theory of practice, which links economic, social and cultural forms of capital (or value) in an overarching category of symbolic capital. These represent categories through which power relationships within society are negotiated. This construct permits a more complete examination of societal stratification and its human biological consequences and amplifiers, since it incorporates the notion of cultural value in different groups of, for example, preferences in body size and shape. The focus is primarily on the USA, although it draws on literature from elsewhere in the industrialized world where appropriate. Differences in obesity rates across major ethnic groups are discussed, because this is an area in which forms of capital differ, and may offer new insights into obesity and factors that predispose to it, as forms of symbolic capital.

Keywords

ObesityCultural capitalSocio-economic statusUnited States

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social and Cultural AnthropologyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK