Intergenerational and socioeconomic gradients of child obesity

Soc Sci Med. 2013 Sep;93:29-37. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.05.035. Epub 2013 Jun 13.


Can the rise in obesity among children be attributed to the intergenerational transmission of parental influences? Does this trend affect the influence of parent's socioeconomic status on obesity? This paper documents evidence of an emerging social gradient of obesity in pre-school children resulting from a combination of both socio-economic status and less intensive childcare associated with maternal employment, when different forms of intergenerational transmission are controlled for. We also estimate and decompose income related inequalities in child obesity. We take advantage of a uniquely constructed dataset from Spain that contains records form 13,358 individuals for a time period (years 2003-2006) in which a significant spike in the growth of child obesity was observed. Our results suggest robust evidence of both socioeconomic and intergenerational gradients. Results are suggestive of a high income effect in child obesity, alongside evidence that income inequalities have doubled in just three years with a pure income effect accounting for as much as 72-66% of these income inequality estimates, even when intergenerational transmission is accounted for. Although, intergenerational transmission does not appear to be gender specific, when accounted for, mother's labour market participation only explains obesity among boys but not among girls. Hence, it appears income and parental influences are the central determinants of obesity among children.

Keywords: Child obesity; Income inequalities in child health; Intergenerational transmission; Socio-economic gradient; Spain.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Determinants of Health*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spain / epidemiology