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Does more education cause lower BMI, or do lower-BMI individuals become more educated? Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979

Benson, R; von Hippel, PT; Lynch, JL; (2017) Does more education cause lower BMI, or do lower-BMI individuals become more educated? Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979. Social Science & Medicine 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.03.042. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

More educated adults have lower average body mass index (BMI). This may be due to selection, if adolescents with lower BMI attain higher levels of education, or it may be due to causation, if higher educational attainment reduces BMI gain in adulthood. We test for selection and causation in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, which has followed a representative US cohort from age 14–22 in 1979 through age 47–55 in 2012. Using ordinal logistic regression, we test the selection hypothesis that overweight and obese adolescents were less likely to earn high school diplomas and bachelor's degrees. Then, controlling for selection with individual fixed effects, we estimate the causal effect of degree completion on BMI and obesity status. Among 18-year-old women, but not among men, being overweight or obese predicts lower odds of attaining higher levels of education. At age 47–48, higher education is associated with lower BMI, but 70–90% of the association is due to selection. Net of selection, a bachelor's degree predicts less than a 1 kg reduction in body weight, and a high school credential does not reduce BMI.

Type: Article
Title: Does more education cause lower BMI, or do lower-BMI individuals become more educated? Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.03.042
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.03.042
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.
Keywords: BMI; Education; Obesity; Selection
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Pop Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Pop Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Epidemiology and Public Health
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1547647
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