Urbanization, nutrition transition, and obesity: evidence from China

Zhou, Song
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University of Delaware
This thesis explores the effects of urbanization on nutrition transition and obesity. Taking adult individuals from a longitudinal dataset, the China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS), from the year 1989 to 2009, this study uses the fixed effects model to examine the effects of urbanization on nutrition transition and obesity, controlling for community-level food prices and individual characteristics. The findings confirm the hypothesis that rising urbanization has positive effects on the obesity level in the adult population in China. Also, the results reveal a nutrition transition towards a dietary pattern of more fat and protein intake, which is consistent with previous studies. The regression analysis uses Body Mass Index (BMI) as measurement for body weight and Triceps Skin Fold (TSF) for body fat. The empirical results show that urbanization has positive effect on BMI, but the effect is not statistically significant for TSF. Evidence from the analysis on gender difference indicates that the effect of urbanization on obesity is more pronounced for females than for males. For regional difference, Heilongjiang and Hubei, among other provinces, appear to have consistent results for urbanization’s positive effect on obesity levels. This study also indicates price effects of food on the obesity level, and confirms the previous empirical evidence that obesity corresponds to food price changes. Individual characteristics act as significant predictors for obesity level. The effect of education on obesity yields mixed results. And physical activity has negative effect on BMI. Income has negative effect on obesity level in females.