Economic Determinants of Obesity Among Older Americans

by Yuhui Zheng

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During the past thirty years the prevalence of obesity among the U.S. population has doubled. Obesity, characterized by excess body fat, is associated with worse health, higher medical costs, and lost productivity. Longitudinal data shows that nowadays individuals continue gaining weight until their sixties, and obesity rate among the near-elderly population is the highest. Therefore identifying effective interventions to lower obesity rate among this population has the potential of generating immediate health and financial benefits. However, empirical evidence about effectiveness of various interventions is inadequate. The author addresses the long-term effect of physical activity on body weight and the effect of food price on body weight among Americans between ages 50 and 73. Retirement seems to cause an increase of about 1 percentage point in the incidence of diabetes among strenuous job leavers, but no such increase among their counterparts retiring from non-strenuous jobs. The price of calories, price of at-home food, and price of margarine are negatively associated with body mass index (BMI), while fast food price and the price of produce are not significantly associated with BMI.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Retirement and Weight

  • Chapter Three

    Food price and body weight among older Americans

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This document was submitted as a dissertation in September 2008 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Dana P. Goldman (Chair), Darius N. Lakdawalla, and Pierre-Carl Michaud.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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