Does Access to Fast Food Lead to Super-Sized Pregnant Mothers and Whopper Babies?

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Rise in the availability of fast-food restaurants has been blamed, at least partly, for the<br>increasing obesity in the U.S. The existing studies of obesity have focused primarily on<br>children, adolescents, and adults, and this paper extends the literature by raising a littlestudied<br>question and using nationally representative data to answer it. It examines the<br>relationship between the supply of fast-food restaurants and weight gain of pregnant<br>women and their newborns. I study prenatal weight gain because excessive weight gain<br>has been linked to postpartum overweight/obesity and I study both tails of the birthweight<br>distribution because the origin of obesity may be traced to the prenatal period and both<br>tail outcomes have been associated with obesity later in life. I merge the 1998 and 2004<br>Natality Detail Files with the Area Resource File, and County Business Patterns, which<br>provide data on the number of fast-food restaurants in the metropolitan area where the<br>mother resides. The empirical model includes an extensive list of MSA characteristics and<br>MSA fixed effects to control for factors that may be correlated with both health outcomes<br>and restaurants’ location decision. Results reveal that the fast-food and weight gain<br>relationship is robust to the inclusion of these controls but these controls greatly mitigate<br>the fast food–infant health relationship. Greater access to fast-food restaurants is<br>positively related to mothers’ probability of excessive weight gain but it does not share a<br>statistically significant relationship with birthweight. These relationships hold in all the<br>socioeconomic and demographic subgroups studied.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364–380
JournalEconomics and Human Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2011


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