Obesity and health-related decisions: An empirical model of the determinants of weight status across the transition from adolescence to young adulthood

Econ Hum Biol. 2016 Dec;23:46-62. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2016.06.003. Epub 2016 Jul 5.


We estimate a structural dynamic model of the determinants of obesity. In addition to including many of the well-recognized endogenous factors mentioned in the literature as obesity determinants, we also model the individual's residential location as a choice variable, which is the main contribution of this paper to the literature. This allows us to control for an individual's self-selection into communities that possess the types of amenities in the built environment, which in turn affect their obesity-related behaviors such as physical activity (PA) and fast food consumption. We specify reduced form equations for a set of endogenous demand decisions, together with an obesity structural equation. The whole system of equations is jointly estimated by a semi-parametric full information log-likelihood method that allows for a general pattern of correlation in the errors across equations. Our model predicts a reduction in adult obesity of 7 percentage points as a result of a continued high level PA from adolescence into adulthood; a reduction of 0.7 (3) percentage points in adult obesity as a result of one standard deviation reduction in weekly fast food consumption for women (men); and a reduction of 0.02 (0.05) in adult obesity as a result of one standard deviation change in several neighborhood amenities for women (men). Another key finding is that controlling for residential self-selection has substantive implications. To our knowledge, this has not been yet documented within a full information maximum likelihood framework.

Keywords: Health production; Public health; Urban analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Exercise*
  • Fast Foods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult