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date: 18 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Measuring the health of a population during the process of economic development is a principle objective in health economics and economic history, and the body mass index (BMI) plays an important role in such studies. Using data on convicts, the author finds that African American BMIs were historically greater than that of whites by 5%. In addition, the differences between average BMIs and obesity narrowed between the two ethnic groups in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and both are now much more likely to be obese than they were earlier. About 1% of males in the 19th century were obese, whereas between 35% and 40% of their modern counterparts are obese. Whereas greater BMIs were once more common among physically active workers, obesity is now more common for workers in sedentary occupations. Explanations are considered for the documented increases in BMIs and obesity.

Keywords: body mass index, U.S. obesity epidemic, long-term health, obesity by race, BMIs race, obesity by gender, BMIs by gender

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