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Obesity and Education Attainment in Minorities Essay Example

Obesity and Education Attainment in Minorities


Obesity affects an individual’s self-esteem, socialization skills, and performance at work and school. Educational attainment can affect obesity levels since a higher level of education is negatively correlated to obesity (Kim, 2016). Education increases people’s self-esteem and confidence. It also introduces people to the consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle that leads to higher incidences of obesity. This research investigates the effect that education attainment has on incidences of obesity in Hispanic and African American communities.

Education, in particular, is associated with higher wages which enable families to lead a healthy lifestyle (Cohen et al., 2013). In the United States, obesity is prevalent in communities with low levels of education. A vast amount of literature exists on the relationship between socioeconomic status and obesity. Researchers, however, disagree on the direction of causality. The question of whether economic circumstances, education, in particular, affect obesity levels or vice versa has been of concern to researchers and policymakers, This paper presents a quantitative methodology of understanding the relationship between educational attainment and obesity.


The purpose and goal of this research are to examine the effect that educational attainment has on obesity levels in Hispanic and African American individuals. To achieve this goal, data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) will be analyzed. The BRFSS is a project commissioned by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to gather information on health risks and behaviors, health practices, and healthcare access for the entire United States population.

The sample of this research will be drawn from the data broken down by race and ethnicity. Stratified sampling will be used since the general population will be divided according to race so that the focus of the research is exclusively on the Hispanic and African American population. The independent variable for the research is obesity. Obesity is simply defined as the excessive amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass (Kim, 2016). The research will utilize the body mass index (BMI) to define overweight and obesity. In general, a body mass index of 25 to 29.9 shows a high level of overweight.

Obesity deals with a body mass index that is equal to or higher than 30. The dependent variables for this research are race and educational attainment. The education variable is divided into three dummy variables of high school completion, bachelor’s, and postgraduate degree. The other dependent variable of race is also used to examine the relationship between education, obesity, and race. Obesity is a chronic disease that adversely affects other physical, social, and economic conditions (Amis, Hussey & Okunade, 2014). It leads to clinical depression, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and premature death. These are all factors worth exploring. Thus, the research will consider extra dependent variables such as health care access and mortality rate.


The research relies on certain assumptions. The researcher assumes that the Body Mass Index or MBI is an appropriate measure of obesity and overweight. The researcher also assumes that BMI is an indicator of health. The researcher is aware of research that argues that low BMI is associated with a higher risk of adult deaths (Cohen et al., 2013). The research is also done under the assumption that education has the same outcomes in all racial and ethnic groups. The other assumption is that the data from the BRFSS survey was gathered without racial or economic biases. This assumption helps because of the focus on Hispanic and African American communities and the long struggle between researchers and biases when it comes to the presentation of research findings.


The research is limited to the stratified sample of Hispanics and African Americans. It would help to have a comparative study that explores the effect of educational attainment on obesity. Since this research relies on quantitative surveys instead of clinical experimental methods, it lacks the ability to make pre and post-tests (Serra-Majem et al., 2007). The research does not suffer from biases inherent in experimental designs but that also comes as a disadvantage since a focus on biases helps avoid erroneous conclusions.


A representative national sample of Hispanic and blacks or African American adults who are 18 or older will be drawn from the BRFSS survey. The CDC began the BRFSS survey in 1984 and it has continued until today. This research will focus on data from 2000-2015. The BRFSS survey data can be divided into sections based on race and ethnicity, educational attainment, and health care access. The BRFSS survey contains national data on health, educational attainment, family economic income, race, and behavior of the individual.




Amis, J. M., Hussey, A. & Okunade, A. A. (2014). Adolescent obesity, educational attainment, and adult earnings. Applied Economics Letters 21, 13, 945-950.

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. (2016). Annual Survey Data. Center for Disease

Control. Retrieved from

Kim, Y. (2016). The long-run effect of education on obesity in the US. Economics & Human

Biology 21, 100-109.

Cohen, A. K., Rai, M., Rehkopf, D. H. & Abrams, B. (2013). Educational attainment and

obesity: A systematic review. Obes Rev 14, 12, 989-1005.

Serra-Majem, L., Ribas – Barba, L., Perez-Rodrigo, C. & Aranceta, J. (2007). Methodological

limitations in measuring childhood and adolescent obesity and overweight in epidemiological studies: does overweight fare better than obesity? Public Health Nutrition 10, 10, 1112-1120.

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