What Makes People in One City Fatter Than Those in Another?

Obesity rates vary considerably across cities and metro areas because it's strongly linked to economic development and other factors.

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Charlotta Mellander and I examined the obesity of cities in a 2011 study in which we also looked at smoking across metros. Our research employed both correlation and multivariate analysis to shed light on the factors associated with obesity across metros. As usual I remind readers that correlation does not imply causation, though our multivariate analysis controls for a wide range of factors.

Basically, we found that obesity is not just a health problem, but strongly linked to the economic development and human capital structures of cities and regions.

Education levels also play a role. Obesity is negatively associated with the share of adults that are college graduates (-.47).

The kind of work we do factors into the picture as well. Obesity is negatively associated with the share of workers doing knowledge, professional, and technical work and positively associated with the share of workers employed in blue-collar working-class jobs.

Larger metros have lower levels of obesity as well (the two are modestly correlated). This may be a function of less driving and greater walking and biking to get around. In fact, obesity is closely related to the way we commute. It is strongly positively associated with metros where more people drive to work alone (.52) and negatively associated with the share of people who bike or walk to work (-.41).

Read the full story at The Atlantic Cities.

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