Examining Rural-Urban Obesity Trends among Youth in the U.S.: Testing the Socioeconomic Gradient Hypothesis
Keywords:Gradient, health, inequality, obesity, rural/urban, socioeconomic.
Adolescent obesity has increased three-fold in the U.S. during the last three decades. While this trend is well-known, relatively little is known about differences in obesity across the rural-urban continuum. This research addresses that gap by testing for such a relationship across time while accounting for variations in familial socioeconomic status. Using 1986-2004 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey data, we estimate recent trends in rural-urban body weight, also testing for potential differences among the rural, small town, and urban high school seniors along socioeconomic gradients. Statistically significant differences disfavoring rural high school seniors in their BMI, their risk for the onset of obesity, and obesity itself over the past decade are identified, with significant interactions between demographics and parental education levels driving the largest disparities. These findings are rich and speak directly to the allocation of public health resources aimed at addressing issues associated with the adolescent obesity epidemic.
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