Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 23, Issue 10, pp 1317–1326 | Cite as

Effects of Contextual Economic Factors on Childhood Obesity

  • Carol C. Guarnizo-Herreño
  • Charles Courtemanche
  • George L. WehbyEmail author



To examine the association between changes in contextual economic factors on childhood obesity in the US.


We combined data from 2003, 2007, and 2011/2012 National Surveys of Children’s Health for 129,781 children aged 10–17 with 27 state-level variables capturing general economic conditions, labor supply, and the monetary or time costs of calorie intake, physical activity, and cigarette smoking. We employed regression models controlling for demographic factors and state and year fixed effects. We also examined heterogeneity in economic effects by household income.


Obesity risk increased with workforce proportion in blue-collar occupations, urban sprawl, female labor force participation, and number of convenience stores but declined with median household income, smoking ban in restaurants, and full service restaurants per capita. Most effects were specific to low income households, except for density of supercenters/warehouse clubs which was significantly associated with higher overweight/obesity risk only in higher income households.

Conclusions for Practice

Changes in state-level economic factors related to labor supply and monetary or time cost of calorie intake may affect childhood obesity especially for children in low-income households. Policymakers should consider these effects when designing programs aimed at reducing childhood obesity.


Obesity Children Adolescents Body Mass Index Economic factors 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10995_2019_2777_MOESM1_ESM.docx (52 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 52 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol C. Guarnizo-Herreño
    • 1
    • 2
  • Charles Courtemanche
    • 3
    • 5
  • George L. Wehby
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Departamento de Salud Colectiva, Facultad de OdontologíaUniversidad Nacional de ColombiaBogotáColombia
  2. 2.Department of Epidemiology and Public HealthUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Management and Policy, College of Public HealthUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  5. 5.National Bureau of Economic ResearchCambridgeUSA

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