Publications

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  • WIC Not Linked to Overweight in Children

    Amber Waves, December 01, 2009

    ERS research shows no relationship between participation in WIC and body weight for children ages 2-5, with one exception. In 1988-94, preschool girls from moderate-income families were more likely to be at risk of overweight than WIC participants. This difference was no longer evident in 1999-2006.

  • Access to Affordable and Nutritious Food-Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and Their Consequences: Report to Congress

    AP-036, June 25, 2009

    This report fills a request for a study of food deserts-areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious food-from the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. The report summarizes findings of a national-level assessment of the extent and characteristics of food deserts, analysis of the consequences of food deserts, lessons learned from related Federal programs, and a discussion of policy options for alleviating the effects of food deserts. Overall, findings show that a small percentage of consumers are constrained in their ability to access affordable nutritious food because they live far from a supermarket or large grocery store and do not have easy access to transportation.

  • WIC and the Battle Against Childhood Overweight

    EB-13, April 01, 2009

    One of the most worrisome aspects of the growing tide of obesity in the United States is the high rate of overweight among children. Over one in five young children, ages 2 to 5, are at risk of being overweight. The number of children at risk of being overweight has grown in the past two decades, as has the number of young children whose families participate in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). Are these increases connected? The answer appears to be "No." However, being from a low-income family, especially a low-income, Mexican-American family, does raise the probability of a child's being at risk for overweight. This brief examines trends in the relationship between WIC participation and weight status by updating the results of Food and Nutrition Assistance Programs and Obesity: 1976-2002 (ERR-48) to include data from the 2003-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

  • Obesity in the Midst of Unyielding Food Insecurity in Developing Countries

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2008

    Income disparity within and among developing countries explains how there can be obesity in the midst of under-nutrition. Rising incomes, urbanization, global integration, and more supermarkets have contributed to increased consumption of convenient, high-calorie foods among the higher income population. Obesity-related diseases have become more widespread in developing countries.

  • Obesity Policy and the Law of Unintended Consequences

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2005

    The list of policies that could potentially help Americans turn the corner on obesity and overweight is as long as the list of factors that influence an individual’s diet and lifestyle choices. The list of unintended consequences stemming from obesity policy is probably longer.

  • Nutrition Labeling in the Food-Away-From-Home Sector: An Economic Assessment

    ERR-4, April 27, 2005

    Americans spent about 46 percent of their total food budget on food away from home in 2002, up from 27 percent in 1962. Such foods tend to be less nutritious and higher in calories than foods prepared at home, and some studies have linked eating away from home to overweight and obesity in adults and children. Current nutrition labeling law exempts much of the food-away-from-home sector from mandatory labeling regulations. Because consumers are less likely to be aware of the ingredients and nutrient content of away-from-home food than of foods prepared at home, public health advocates have called for mandatory nutrition labeling for major sources of food away from home, such as fast-food and chain restaurants. This report provides an economic assessment of a food-away-from-home nutrition labeling policy, including justifications for policy intervention and potential costs and benefits of the policy.

  • Americans at Unequal Risk for Obesity

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2004

    Obesity is rising among all U.S. population groups, but not all Americans are equally at risk of becoming overweight or obese. ERS researchers found that several socioeconomic factors, such as the level of education, marital status, and the presence of children in the household correlate with the food choices, activity levels, and health-related attitudes that affect body weight. For example, people with a college education eat a more healthful diet, watch less TV, drink fewer sugary drinks, and skip breakfast less often.

  • Taxing Snacks to Reduce Obesity

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2004

    Some public health advocates and health researchers are proposing an excise tax on snack foods as a way to reduce the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. ERS researchers simulated the impacts of such a tax by using different measures of consumer responsiveness to prices and different tax rates. Relatively low tax rates of 1 percent or 1 cent per pound had negligible impacts on purchases of salty snack foods. For these cases, taxes would not appreciably alter diet quality or health outcomes, but tax revenues would be positive.

  • Technological Changes Contribute to Rise in Obesity

    Amber Waves, June 01, 2004

    Technological progress has contributed to Americans' rising obesity rates by making paid employment less physically strenuous for many people and by changing the incentives for the type and amounts of food people eat. A recent ERS-sponsored workshop discussed the role of technological change and other economic factors in explaining the food and activity choices that lead to weight gain and obesity.

  • On the Map: Obesity Rates

    Amber Waves, November 01, 2003

    Over half of States in 2001 had an obesity rate for adults of 20 percent or over. None had this high an obesity rate in 1991, and 9 States were even under 10 percent.

  • What Weight Problem?

    Amber Waves, September 01, 2003

    According to a recent ERS analysis, many American adults misidentify their weight category. Misperceptions of weight category appear to vary by gender and other demographic characteristics. Women assessed their weight category more accurately than men, and individuals who were overweight or obese based on BMI and perceived themselves to be a healthy weight were more likely to be non-Hispanic Black or Hispanic, than Asian or non-Hispanic White.

  • Dietary Differences Masked by Averages

    Amber Waves, April 01, 2003

    As the rates of obesity and related health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, continue to rise, the quality of our diets is being increasingly scrutinized by health professionals in both the public and private sectors. The diets of different sociodemographic groups are of particular interest to public health officials because of the disparities among these groups in terms of incidence of certain diseases, like obesity. With better knowledge of the dietary differences associated with gender, education, income, race, and ethnicity, public health officials can identify groups that are particularly vulnerable to poor health and devise appropriate strategies.