The income body weight gradients in the developing economy of China

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Abstract

Existing theories predict the income gradient of individual body weight to change sign from positive to negative in process of economic development. However, there are only few empirical studies which test this hypothesis. This paper adds to the literature on that topic by investigating the case of China. Using individual and community data from 1991 to 2009 waves of the China Health and Nutrition Survey regression analyses suggest that after controlling for important confounding factors (1) higher income is positively related to future growth of individuals’ BMI in less developed areas (i.e. BMI growth is 0.7–1.5 percentage points higher when comparing the richest with the poorest individuals), but negatively related to BMI growth in more developed areas (i.e. BMI growth is 0.8–1.6 percentage points lower for the richest individuals), and (2) that concentrations of overweight are “trickling down” to lower income ranks as regions become more developed. Moreover, the reversal of the income gradient appears to happen at earlier stages of development for females.

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