Social and Economic Consequences of Obesity during the Transition to Adulthood

Kathleen Mullan Harris, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Hedwig Lee, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This paper examines the social and economic consequences of obesity during the transition to adulthood. We use four waves of data from Add Health, a national cohort of adolescents interviewed in grades 7-12 in 1995 and followed-up in 1996, 2002, and 2008 when the cohort was aged 24-32. We track obesity incidence and persistence from adolescence (WII) through the transition to adulthood (WIII). We examine the relationship between these obesity trajectories during the transition to adulthood and multiple measures of social stratification in young adulthood (WIV), including education, income/welfare receipt, material deprivation, subjective social status and debt. We anticipate that greater exposure to obesity in early life, especially persistent obesity, will place individuals at the bottom of the social stratification system on these outcomes, relative to no exposure to obesity. We explore potential mediating mechanisms of obesity impacts and fixed effects models to control for selection bias associated with obesity.

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Presented in Session 106: Implications of Childhood Circumstances for Transitions to Adulthood in the U.S.