Do fast food restaurants surrounding schools affect childhood obesity?

Jebaraj Asirvatham, Michael R. Thomsen, Rodolfo M. Nayga, Anthony Goudie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we estimate the effect of fast food environment surrounding schools on childhood body mass index (BMI). We use two methods that arrive at a similar conclusion, but with different implications. Using school distance from the nearest federal highway to instrument for restaurant location, we find the surrounding restaurants to only marginally affect a student's BMI measure. The effect size also decreases with increasing radial distances from school, 0.016 standard deviations at one-third of a mile and 0.0032 standard deviations at a mile radial distance. This indicates the decreasing influence of restaurants on a child's BMI as its distance from school increases. On a subset of students who were exogenously assigned to different school food environment, we find no effect of the fast food restaurants. An important contextual aspect is that nearly all schools in this sample observed closed campus policy, which does not allow students to leave campus during lunch hours.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-133
Number of pages10
JournalEconomics and Human Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2019 May


  • Body mass index
  • Childhood obesity
  • Fast food
  • Instrumental variable estimation
  • School food environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Do fast food restaurants surrounding schools affect childhood obesity?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this