The Chicken and Egg Problem: Obesity and the Urban Monocentric Model
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Recent medical studies have examined ways to offer enhanced spatial planning opportunities to increase a person’s level of physical activity. These studies demonstrate a decreasing prevalence of obesity in denser and less car-oriented communities with mixed land uses. Yet, these studies raise the chicken and egg problem, namely, whether or not prevalence of obesity motivate change of residence, or whether or not people who are more physically active prefer to live in denser and less car-oriented communities? Based on a two-year longitudinal survey of the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), we explore this question using a 3SLS methodology, where the two endogenous variables include: BMI and apartment size. The age of the housing unit in years and the structure type provide the exogenous variables that identify the BMI equation. This empirical model is justified based on the urban monocentric model, which forecasts smaller apartments in multi-story structures with smaller building footprints, where price of land is expensive (at the central cities), which, in turn, give rise to denser and less car-oriented communities. In contrast, single family units with larger lot size, which give rise to more car-oriented communities, are typical of suburbs, where the price of land is relatively cheap. Moreover, the natural evolution theory of suburbanization process explains the correlation between construction age, type, income level, and location in central cities. Results of our study give rise to the possibility that for the Jewish female and male populations, health considerations may influence housing choice, but not vice versa. For other populations (i.e., Arab females and males), and with one exception, no correlation between BMI and housing choice is found. Public policy implications of our study suggest that health-related considerations might be employed to promote return to denser urban areas/central cities (reverse suburbanization) particularly among the Jewish population group.
KeywordsSuburbanization Body mass index Obesity
JEL ClassificationH75 I12 R21 R58
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