The Transition to Post-Industrial BMI Values in the United States

Marek Brabec and John Komlos

in Insecurity, Inequality, and Obesity in Affluent Societies

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780197264980
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754135 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Transition to Post-Industrial BMI Values in the United States

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The trend in the BMI values of the United States population has not been estimated accurately because time series data are unavailable and because the focus has been on calculating period effects. This chapter attempts to estimate long-run trends and the rate of change of BMI values by birth cohorts, stratified by gender and ethnicity, beginning with the mid-nineteenth century. The transition to post-industrial BMI values began in earnest after the First World War and, after slowing down during the Great Depression, accelerated with the spread of television viewing. While period effects provide an upper bound when the weight change occurred, birth cohort effects provide a lower bound. In the absence of longitudinal data, both effects need to be considered. Hence, the evidence leads to the hypothesis that transition to post-industrial weights probably started considerably earlier than hitherto asserted.

Keywords: BMI; obesity; United States; long-run trends; birth cohorts; post-industrial society; television viewing

Chapter.  5963 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Health, Illness, and Medicine

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