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Seoul Journal of Economics - Vol. 34 , No. 2

[ Article ]
Seoul Journal of Economics - Vol. 34, No. 2, pp.155-169
Abbreviation: SJE
ISSN: 1225-0279 (Print)
Print publication date 30 May 2021
Received 03 Mar 2020 Revised 30 Apr 2020 Accepted 20 Aug 2020

The Distributional Effect of Education on Body Mass
Young-Joo Kim ; Vince Daly
Young-Joo Kim, Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Hongik University, 94 Wausan-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul, 04066, Korea, Tel: 82-2-320-1759 (
Vince Daly, Professor Emeritus, Department of Economics, Kingston University, 55-59 Penrhyn Rd, Kingston upon Thames KT1 2EE, U.K., Tel: 44-208-417-9000 (

Funding Information ▼

JEL Classification: I12, I14, I26


We investigate the effect of education on mid-life obesity, with particular attention to potential heterogeneity across the Body Mass Index (BMI) distribution. Applying quantile regression methods to British men and women, we first find that childhood and parental BMI are critical determinants of obesity in middle age. We then establish that even when controlling for various weight-related factors in childhood and a potential endogeneity bias, a higher education level reduces the probability of being obese in middle age. We show that this education effect is obtained by a compression of the distribution of BMI (kg/m2) and a shifting of its center leftward toward a more healthy BMI range. We further show that income and physical activity are important channels of the education effect, and the significant effect of education at the upper quantile of the BMI distribution is neither a disguised income effect nor a healthy behavior effect.

Keywords: Obesity, Body Mass Index, Education, Quantile regression


This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2017S1A5A8019707 & NRF-2020S1A5A2A03046422).

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