Friday, February 28, 2014

Childhood Obesity and the Demographics of New Mothers

A new study has found a big drop in obesity among the nation's 2-to-5-year-olds, according to a New York Times article. The percentage of children in the age group who are obese fell from 14 percent in 2004 to 8 percent in 2012. This is good news, but no one can explain the decline. Some say it's due to more breastfeeding. Others say children are consuming fewer calories from sugar. First Lady Michelle Obama's efforts to improve children's nutrition are also cited as a reason. Here's a more likely explanation: the higher educational attainment of new mothers.

Between 2000 (when some of those 2-to-5-year-olds of 2004 were born) and 2010 (when some of those 2-to-5-year-olds of 2012 were born), the annual number of births in the United States declined as the Great Recession triggered a baby bust. Fewer women gave birth, and their demographics changed. New mothers in 2010 were much more educated than new mothers in 2000, according to the Census Bureau. The percentage of babies born to high school dropouts fell from 23 to 17 percent between 2000 and 2010. The percentage of babies born to women with college experience grew from 46 to 56 percent during those years.

It's a well known fact that educated people have better health. It should come as no surprise, then, that educated mothers have healthier children.

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