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Changes Over Time in the Relationship of Obesity to Education Accumulation

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This research examines whether the influence of obesity in late adolescence on education accumulation has changed over time as the rate of obesity has increased substantially over the previous three decades. Previous studies have indicated that obesity has asymmetric consequences between genders on socioeconomic outcomes such as income, wealth, and education. The results in this project allow for consideration of the influence of obesity on education accumulation as the proportion of adolescent peers with weight problems varies substantially. I utilize data from the NLSY79 and the children of women in the NLSY79 to estimate the relationships of interest. I find that obese and overweight females in both generations are less likely to attend college than their peers with BMI levels in the recommended range. As well, obese females are less likely to graduate high school, with a larger effect in the earlier generation when obesity was relatively rare. I do not find any significant relationship between weight status and college attendance or high school graduation for males. Such asymmetric results for human capital investments across genders are consistent with previous evidence that obese women face a wage penalty relative to their non-obese peers, while obese males do not.

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Correspondence to Tim Classen.



Table A1 Marginal effects of weight status on high school graduation by race/ethnicity
Table A2 Marginal effects of weight status on college attendance by race/ethnicity

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Classen, T. Changes Over Time in the Relationship of Obesity to Education Accumulation. Eastern Econ J 43, 496–519 (2017).

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