(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) A new UC Davis study has found that minimum-wage employees are more likely to be obese than those who earn higher wages, adding to growing evidence that being poor is a risk factor for unhealthy weight.
"Our study clarifies a link that has been assumed but difficult to prove," said Paul Leigh, senior author of the study and professor in the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research. "The correlation between obesity and poverty-level wages was very strong."
Public-health scientists have identified several potential reasons why lower wages could support the tendency for obesity. One is that poorer people tend to live in less-safe neighborhoods with reduced access to parks and other low-cost means of physical activity. Healthy, lower-calorie foods also tend to be more expensive and less available in poorer communities. California's Obesity Prevention Plan, for instance, notes that many low-income families have less access to healthier foods and often have to travel greater distances than others to find healthier food options at lower prices.
"The outcome leads us to believe that raising minimum wages could be part of the solution to the obesity epidemic. Doing so could increase purchasing power enough to expand access to healthier lifestyle choices," Leigh said.
Published in the May issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the finding is the result of the novel use of a statistical technique known as instrumental variables, which is often used by economists and other social scientists to determine causal rather than coincidental relationships between, for instance, education and earnings.
"Instrumental variables gave us the chance to evaluate an independent factor that is definitely not caused by obesity minimum wages," said Leigh, who is an expert in health and labor economics. "After adjusting for inflation, minimum wages have been stagnant or falling over
|Contact: Karen Finney|
University of California - Davis - Health System