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The present study used nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (a.k.a., Add Health) to examine the impact of childhood obesity on young adult educational attainment. In addition to weight status, independent variables included race–ethnicity, immigrant generational status, family socio-economic status (SES), preference for overweight and obese friends in school, school socio-economic and race–ethnic composition, and other important predictors. Educational attainment was measured as a categorical variable with the categories reflecting key educational benchmarks: (1) being a high school graduate; (2) having some college education; and (3) having completed a bachelor’s or higher degree. The results indicate that in general, individuals who were obese as children are less likely to transition from high school to college, and even less likely to obtain a baccalaureate or more advanced degree. In line with the social network hypothesis of the obesity epidemic, we also found that having overweight and obese friends drives down the odds of educational success. Attendance at a higher SES school or a school with a lower percentage of minority students was positively associated with the odds of college attendance and obtaining a baccalaureate. Other important effects included race–ethnicity and immigrant generational status.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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