Income inequality and weight status in US metropolitan areas

Virginia W. Chang, Nicholas A. Christakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Prior empirical studies have demonstrated an association between income inequality and general health endpoints such as mortality and self-rated health, and findings have been taken as support for the hypothesis that inequality is detrimental to individual health. Unhealthy weight statuses may function as an intermediary link between inequality and more general heath endpoints. Using individual-level data from the 1996-98 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, we examine the relationship between individual weight status and income inequality in US metropolitan areas. Income inequality is calculated with data from the 1990 US Census 5% Public Use Microsample. In analyses stratified by race-sex groups, we do not find a positive association between income inequality and weight outcomes such as body mass index, the odds of being overweight, and the odds of being obese. Among white women, however, we do find a statistically significant inverse association between inequality and each of these weight outcomes, despite adjustments for individual-level covariates, metropolitan-level covariates, and census region. We also find that greater inequality is associated with higher odds for trying to lose weight among white women, even adjusting for current weight status. Although our findings are suggestive of a contextual effect of metropolitan area income inequality, we do not find an increased risk for unhealthy weight outcomes, adding to recent debates surrounding this topic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-96
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume61
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2005

Fingerprint

metropolitan area
agglomeration area
income
Weights and Measures
census
Censuses
general health
Health
health
Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
Income
Metropolitan
Income inequality
Metropolitan areas
risk factor
body mass
surveillance
mortality
Body Mass Index
Mortality

Keywords

  • Body mass index
  • Contextual analysis
  • Income inequality
  • Obesity
  • Socioeconomic factors
  • USA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Development
  • Health(social science)

Cite this

Income inequality and weight status in US metropolitan areas. / Chang, Virginia W.; Christakis, Nicholas A.

In: Social Science and Medicine, Vol. 61, No. 1, 07.2005, p. 83-96.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Chang, Virginia W. ; Christakis, Nicholas A. / Income inequality and weight status in US metropolitan areas. In: Social Science and Medicine. 2005 ; Vol. 61, No. 1. pp. 83-96.
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