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Obes Rev. 2006 Feb;7(1):5-12.

Poverty and the extent of child obesity in Canada, Norway and the United States.

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  • 1Department of Economics, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


The goal of this paper is to compare the extent of child obesity in Canada, Norway and the United States. As child poverty is an important correlate of child obesity, we wish to examine the potential role of international differences in child poverty in explaining international differences in the extent of child obesity. We use three representative microdata surveys containing parental reports of child height and weight collected in the mid-1990s in Canada, Norway and the US. We calculate both the prevalence and proportional severity of child obesity for 6-11-year-old children in each country, and represent the 'extent' of obesity diagrammatically. Differences in patterns of child poverty are similarly depicted. Obesity extent is also compared for poor and non-poor children in Canada and the US. Finally, child obesity in the three countries is compared using only non-poor children where we find that the extent of child obesity is much lower in Norway than in Canada or the US. The pattern apparent for obesity is remarkably similar to that found for child poverty. In Canada and especially in the US, we find a much greater extent of obesity for poor than non-poor children. However, when we compare only non-poor children in the three countries, although the magnitude of difference is smaller, it remains clear that Norwegian children are much less likely to be obese. Policy and research directed towards reducing the extent of child obesity in both Canada and the US should pay particular attention to issues of child poverty.

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