The Effect of Obesity on Intergenerational Income Mobility

Liana Fox, Columbia University
Nathan Hutto, Columbia University

Utilizing the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79), this paper examines the likelihood of upward and downward mobility by obesity status (normal, overweight, and obese) and gender. Using temporal ordering to establish a direction of causality, we examine parental income when the child was living at home, BMI in early adulthood, and adult family income at age 38-43. We find that obesity both dampens upward mobility and increases the likelihood of downward mobility for women. We do not find the same trends for obese men, who alternatively have a greater likelihood of upward mobility. This research finds that obesity in early adulthood places women on a poor income trajectory throughout adulthood relative to parental income. The health consequences and social stigma of obesity perpetuate and deepen economic disparities among women. The lasting impact of obesity highlights the need for intervention in adolescence and early adulthood.

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Presented in Session 154: Health and Socioeconomic Consequences of Obesity