Urbanization, Fast-Food Restaurants and Individual Agency: An Ecological and Life Course Analysis of Body Weight Changes in Chinese Youth

Susan E. Short, Brown University

The conventional trickle-down model of community effects on body weight status is theoretically flawed. A better understanding of the association between community context and youth’s body weight status is needed to inform public health policy. We integrate an ecological approach with a life course perspective, introducing human agency and its dynamic interactions with contextual factors into our model. Drawing upon longitudinal and multilevel data, we study body weight changes captured by both general and central obesity measures in Chinese youth. We employ a difference-in-difference model to adjust for “pretreatment heterogeneity bias.” We examine three dimensions related to individual agency, including family resources, health knowledge, and self-perceived body shape, and their interactions with two community factors, urbanization and fast-food restaurants, thereby adjusting for “treatment effect heterogeneity bias.” Our preliminary results highlight complex patterns of body weight change as Chinese youth transitioned from early childhood to late adolescence.

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Presented in Session 60: Child Health, Urbanization and SES Differentials