Obesity among Poor Americans
Is Public Assistance the Problem?
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: Vanderbilt University Press
Table of Contents
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Critics have argued that public assistance reduces work effort, discourages marriage, and encourages nonmarital births. Now some claim that public assistance also causes obesity. For example, Douglas Besharov, of the American Enterprise Institute, testified before a congressional committee that he thinks the Food Stamp and National School Lunch...
1. Trends in Obesity, Poverty, and Public Assistance
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The first step toward understanding the relationship between public assistance and obesity is to quantify it. This chapter presents descriptive statistical evidence documenting the associations between poverty, public assistance, and obesity. First, I’ll present the general trends in obesity prevalence, and then I’ll disaggregate the rate of obesity by...
2. The "Public Assistance Causes Obesity" Hypothesis
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The previous chapter documented that poor women and public assistance participants exhibit higher rates of obesity. This chapter examines the first of four possible explanations for this association, the “Public Assistance Causes Obesity” model. Public assistance is designed to help low-income families meet their fundamental needs, and the goal of the...
3. The "Obesity Causes Public Assistance" Hypothesis
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Whereas the previous chapter considered whether public assistance leads to obesity, this chapter considers the reverse causal flow: does obesity cause people to become poor and turn to public assistance? Obesity could influence income and eligibility for public assistance programs via two pathways (Figure 3.1). First, excess body weight can impair...
4. The "Poverty Causes Both Public Assistance and Obesity" Hypothesis
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This chapter examines the third model of the obesity–public assistance association: poverty simultaneously causes both obesity and public assistance participation. The pathway from poverty to public assistance is mechanical: to qualify a person must have sufficiently low income. For example, eligibility in the Food Stamps Program requires income...
5. The "Factor X Causes Both Public Assistance and Obesity" Hypothesis
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Factors in addition to poverty may cause both obesity and public assistance participation. Disabling physical disorders and mental illness limit the ability to earn income and can pose barriers to physical activity and a nutritious diet. Abuse in either childhood or adulthood may lead to both physiological and psychological responses that raise the risk of...
6. Common Threads and Conclusions
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Does public assistance cause participants to gain weight and lead to higher obesity prevalence among the poor? While the literature suggests that long-term food stamp receipt may contribute somewhat to women’s weight, a much more complex picture of obesity among the poor emerges from this investigation. Obesity contributes to lower...
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Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2009