Impact of weight classifications on weight loss behavior: a regression discontinuity design
Worley, Ronald Wayne, III (Trey)
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Around 70% of US adults are overweight or obese, conditions strongly associated with medical issues and lower worker productivity. Efforts to address this issue have largely failed to instill long-term healthy living habits in individuals, and a better understanding of how individuals respond to these weight classifications may aid in creating effective interventions. Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, I exploit the quasi-random assignment of weight classifications through the body mass index in a regression discontinuity design (RD) to analyze the impacts of overweight and obese assignments on weight change behavior and attempts to lose weight. My results suggest that individuals do not respond to these classifications by altering their weight change behavior or their efforts to lose weight. Limitations to my study make it uncertain whether this is the true relationship between weight classifications and weight-related behaviors. However, these findings align with previous research utilizing similar natural experiments. Future studies could exploit additional sources of variation in weight information, utilize different techniques, and explore alternative samples to contribute to the small, yet growing, literature on this topic.