Adolescent obesity, educational attainment and adult earnings


We estimate the effects of being obese during adolescence on the likelihood of high school graduation, post-secondary educational attainment and labour market earnings as an adult (over 13 years later). We use longitudinal data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health (Add Health), conducted by the Carolina Population Center of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is a nationally representative sample of students in grades 7 through 12 for the 1994-1995 first wave survey. Three subsequent waves of follow-up interviews occurred in 1996, 2001-2002 and finally in 2007-2008, when the sample was aged 25-31. Probit and linear regression models with a large set of controls (to minimize any bias that may result from omitting factors related to both adolescent obesity and adult outcomes) are fitted to carry out analyses separately by gender or racial groups. Pathological body weights are most notably present among males, blacks and Hispanics, suggesting possibility that diverging obesity effects may be found across race and gender groups. Unlike some prior research, we find no significant effects of adolescent obesity on high school graduation, but for some demographic groups, negative effects are found on college graduation and future income. Policy implications are discussed. © 2014 Taylor & Francis.

Publication Title

Applied Economics Letters