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date: 23 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The average person’s weight is climbing as the world grows richer. This chapter investigates the relationship between wealth and weight. Cross-national macro data (1995–2005) analysis finds a small, positive, statistically significant relationship; a 10 percentage point increase in a country’s wealth is associated with an absolute body mass index (BMI) increase of 0.03 points (a 0.13% change). US micro data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1985–2012) shows a small, negative, statistically significant relationship: each extra pound of weight is associated with a loss of $226 of wealth, and one additional BMI point is associated with a wealth reduction of about $1,900 for the typical adult. A potential explanation for this seeming contradiction is that the macro data are heavily weighted toward poorer developing countries, which make up a majority of the world’s population, and the micro data represent the experiences of a rich developed country.

Keywords: weight, wealth, net worth, rich, poor, body mass index, BMI, health, obesity, income

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