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Abstract

The Ability of Various Measures of Fatness to Predict Application for Disability Insurance
by Richard V. Burkhauser, John H. Cawley and Maximilian D. Schmeiser
WP 2008-185

This paper compares a variety of measures of fatness (e.g. BMI, waist circumference, waist-tohip ratio, percent body fat) in terms of their ability to predict application for Social Security Disability Insurance (DI). This is possible through a recent linkage of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III to Social Security Administration (SSA) administrative records.

Our results indicate that the measure of fatness that best predicts application for DI varies by race and gender. For white men, BMI consistently predicts future application for DI. For white women, almost all are consistently predictive. For black men, none predict application. For black women, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio are the only significant predictors of DI application. This variation across race and gender suggests that the inclusion of alternative measures of fatness in social science datasets should be considered, and that researchers examining the impact of fatness on social science outcomes should examine the robustness of their findings to alternative measures of fatness.

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