To examine the association between changes in contextual economic factors on childhood obesity in the US.
We combined data from 2003, 2007, and 2011/2012 National Surveys of Children’s Health for 129,781 children aged 10–17 with 27 state-level variables capturing general economic conditions, labor supply, and the monetary or time costs of calorie intake, physical activity, and cigarette smoking. We employed regression models controlling for demographic factors and state and year fixed effects. We also examined heterogeneity in economic effects by household income.
Obesity risk increased with workforce proportion in blue-collar occupations, urban sprawl, female labor force participation, and number of convenience stores but declined with median household income, smoking ban in restaurants, and full service restaurants per capita. Most effects were specific to low income households, except for density of supercenters/warehouse clubs which was significantly associated with higher overweight/obesity risk only in higher income households.