Dr. Patricia K. Smith
Professor of Economics
University of Michigan-Dearborn
Home Courses Research Vita arrow Bookright arrow Faculty Development

CoverObesity among Poor Americans investigates the relationships between obesity, poverty, and public assistance programs. I began this study in response to claims that public assistance programs cause weight gain and contribute to obesity among the poor.




NPR Interview (Oct. 6, 2009)







Smith, Patricia K. Obesity among poor Americans: is public assistance the problem?. Vanderbilt, 2009. 197p ISBN 9780826516350, $49.95; ISBN 9780826516367 pbk, $22.95. Reviewed in 2009dec CHOICE. This book investigates the controversial claim that public assistance programs are at the root of the obesity epidemic among the poor, particularly poor women, in the US. Smith (Univ. of Michigan, Dearborn) offers, and then investigates in great detail, four hypotheses and pathways within each that might explain the relationship between obesity and public assistance. The four key chapters test whether "public assistance causes obesity," "obesity causes public assistance," "poverty causes both public assistance and obesity," or "factor X causes both." Possible x factors include stress, disability, and physical abuse. The author reviews empirical evidence from disciplines such as anthropology, economics, epidemiology, medicine, nutrition science, marketing, psychology, public health, sociology, and urban planning to determine if this claim is valid or if there is some other explanation for the rising obesity problem among the poor. This is a very interesting and informative book that perhaps opens up more questions than it answers. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. -- K. J. Buhr, University of Maine


Contemporary Sociology March 2010 v. 39: 205-5 Review by Virginia Chang (University of Pennsylvannia) "On the whole, Smith has taken on an immense volume of literature from several domains, and the overall review is really quite impressive. Mostly importantly, I think she has indeed arrived at the best answer we can have at this juncture to the question of whether public assistance leads to obesity among poor Americans."


You may contact me at: pksmith@umich.edu