Deprivation or discrimination? Comparing two explanations for the reverse income-obesity gradient in the US and South Korea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In high-income countries, poverty is often associated with higher average body mass index (BMI). To account for this reverse gradient, deprivation theories posit that declining economic resources make it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight. By contrast, discrimination theories argue that anti-fat discrimination in hiring and marriage sorts heavier individuals into lower-income households. This study assesses competing predictions of these theories by examining how household income in representative samples from South Korea (2007-2014, N=20,823) and the US (1999-2014, N=6395) is related to BMI in two key contrasting groups: (1) currently-married and (2) never-married individuals. As expected by anti-fat discrimination in marriage, the reverse gradient is observed among currently-married women but not among never-married women in both countries. Also consistent with past studies no evidence was found for a reverse gradient among men. These findings are consistent with anti-fat discrimination in marriage as a key cause of the reverse gradient and raise serious challenges to deprivation accounts as well as explanations based on anti-fat discrimination in labour markets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Biosocial Science
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

Keywords

  • Body mass index
  • Income
  • Keywords:
  • Reverse gradient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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