April 18, 2021 | News

Vega Principal Andrew Zuppann's paper "Relative Obesity and the Formation of Non-cognitive Abilities During Adolescence" was recently published in The Journal of Human Resources. The authors investigate the causal relationship between childhood and adolescent obesity and non-cognitive traits by focusing on a relatively unexplored but important avenue: the fact that perception of body size is, to an extent, a relative concept. 


We study the role of relative childhood and adolescent obesity in the development of noncognitive abilities. We employ a novel identification strategy, utilizing the fact that one’s body size is a relative concept and there are large variations in body sizes across MSAs. We focus on children who move between MSAs. Controlling for origin-destination state pair fixed effects, we find that a 10 percentile point increase in relative body size would increase behavioral problems by 2 percentile points. This effect is of a similar magnitude to a two-year reduction in maternal education.

The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors, who are responsible for the content, and do not necessarily represent the views of Vega Economics. For more information, please contact info@vegaeconomics.com.

 Relative Obesity and the Formation of Non-cognitive Abilities During Adolescence (Working Paper Version)