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Demography. 2011 Nov;48(4):1429-50. doi: 10.1007/s13524-011-0064-x.

Explaining the female black-white obesity gap: a decomposition analysis of proximal causes.

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  • 1Centre for Health Economics, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia.


There exist remarkably large differences in body weights and obesity prevalence between black and white women in the United States; and crucially, these differences are a significant contributor to black-white inequalities in health. In this article, we investigate the most proximal explanations for the weight gap: namely, differences in diet and exercise. More specifically, we decompose black-white differences in body mass index and waist-to-height ratio into components reflecting black-white differences in energy intake and energy expenditure. The analysis indicates that overconsumption is much more important than a lack of exercise in explaining the weight gap, which suggests that diet interventions will have to play a fundamental role if the weight gap between black and white women is to decline.

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