Essays on food consumption, income inequality, and health-related issues in China

This cumulative dissertation presents five contributions that attempt to shed light on the issues regarding food consumption, income inequality and health in China. Empirical results in chapter 2 indicate that there exist substantial differences in food consumption across various income classes, meanwhile, the projected food consumption under different income distribution patterns shows that changes in income distribution have significant influences on food consumption. Chapter 3 reveals that there exists significant income inequality to the disadvantage of ethnic minorities for the full, female, and urban samples, and depending on the instrument also for the rural sample. Nevertheless, our results for these samples show specific returns to education for ethnic minorities, which implies that a portion of the income gap can be overcome with additional education. In chapter 4, employing a structural equation model for alcohol and cigarettes consumption, the empirical results indicate that alcohol and cigarettes are complementary goods for men in China; when the demand for alcohol (cigarettes) increases, the demand for cigarettes (alcohol) will also increase, ceteris paribus. In chapter 5, accounting for the endogeneity of education in unhealthy consumption equations, we find that education exerts a negative impact on unhealthy consumption like smoking and binge drinking, and an additional year of education can counteract intergenerational persistence of smoking and binge drinking from the father, but that it has no significant impact on intergenerational persistence from the mother. The results in chapter 6 suggest that body weight and the probability of overweight initiation increase with income but at a decreasing rate; while the probability of overweight cessation decreases with income but at an increasing rate. Our findings conclude that in contrast to developed countries, low-income individuals are less likely to be overweight in a transition country like China.


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