NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Effects of Urban Sprawl on Obesity

Zhenxiang Zhao, Robert Kaestner

NBER Working Paper No. 15436
Issued in October 2009
NBER Program(s):   HE

In this paper, we examine the effect of changes in population density—urban sprawl—between 1970 and 2000 on BMI and obesity of residents in metropolitan areas in the US. We address the possible endogeneity of population density by using a two-step instrumental variables approach. We exploit the plausibly exogenous variation in population density caused by the expansion of the U.S. Interstate Highway System, which largely followed the original 1947 plan for the Interstate Highway System. We find a negative association between population density and obesity and estimates are robust across a wide range of specifications. Estimates indicate that if the average metropolitan area had not experienced the decline in the proportion of population living in dense areas over the last 30 years, the rate of obesity would have been reduced by approximately 13%.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w15436

Published: Zhao, Zhenxiang & Kaestner, Robert, 2010. "Effects of urban sprawl on obesity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 779-787, December. citation courtesy of

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