Weight and Fertility: Complex Links between Overweight, Childbearing and Socioeconomic Status

Margaret M. Weden, University of Wisconsin at Madison
Michelle L. Frisco, University of Wisconsin at Madison and Iowa State University
Ju-Hong Lee, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Dramatic increases in obesity, especially among youth, have made it one of the largest public health crises facing the US. Increasingly, researchers are exploring the determinants of obesity, but the links between weight gains and the social facets of young people's lives have received little attention. In this study, we lay out theoretical reasons why obesity/overweight might be linked with nonmarital childbearing and age at first birth. We focus on young women since both the stigma of overweight/obesity and the consequences of nonmarital and early childbearing are greater for women. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, we investigate the causal ordering of these relationships and consider whether obesity/overweight is associated with nonmarital and early childbearing due to the influence of socioeconomic status on them both. Our findings help disentangle how weight intertwines with aspects of family formation important for future socioeconomic position during the transition to adulthood.

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Presented in Session 42: Influences of Health on Socioeconomic Status