Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 251–267 | Cite as

Why has the prevalence of obesity doubled?

  • Charles L. BaumEmail author
  • Shin-Yi Chou


The prevalence of obesity has doubled over the last 25 years. We estimate the effects of multiple socio-environmental factors (e.g., physical demands at work, restaurants, food prices, cigarette smoking, food stamps, and urban sprawl) on obesity using NLSY data. Then we use the Oaxaca–Blinder decomposition technique to approximate the contribution of each socio-environmental factor to the increase during this time. Many socio-environmental factors significantly affect weight, but none are able to explain a large portion of the obesity increase. Decreases in cigarette smoking consistently explains about 2–4 % of the increase in obesity and BMI. Food stamp receipt also consistently affects the measures of weight, but the small decrease in food stamp program participation during the period we examine actually dampened the increases in obesity and BMI. Collectively, the socio-environmental factors we examine never explain more than about 6.5 % of the weight increases.


Obesity Overweight Body mass index (BMI) 

JEL Classification

J1 I1 



Financial support for this research has been generously provided by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), although the opinions expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors.

Supplementary material

11150_2015_9298_MOESM1_ESM.docx (39 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 38 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Economics and Finance DepartmentMiddle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboroUSA
  2. 2.Economics DepartmentLehigh UniversityBethlehemUSA
  3. 3.National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)CambridgeUSA

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