A life course perspective on BMI and obesity in rural America
Shelley Clark1
1McGill University

Rural Americans are substantially more likely to be obese than their urban counterparts. These rural-urban discrepancies in weight emerge in childhood and persist into late adulthood, yet how exposure to rural environments over the life course influences adult weight status is poorly understood. This study uses data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to follow the residential trajectories of 3,422 men and women from birth to young adulthood. After testing three life course paradigms, accumulation, critical period, and mobility, we find that residence in rural areas during the critical period before age two is most strongly associated with BMI and obesity among young adults. Our results draw attention to the need for more research and policies aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of rural mothers and infants to address the roots of rural obesity.