OBJECTIVE: Obesity prevalence is unequally distributed across gender and ethnic group in Malaysia. In this paper, we examine the role of socioeconomic inequality in explaining these disparities.
DESIGN: The body mass index (BMI) distributions of Malays and Chinese, the two largest ethnic groups in Malaysia, are estimated through the use of quantile regression. The differences in the BMI distributions are then decomposed into two parts: attributable to differences in socioeconomic endowments and attributable to differences in responses to endowments.
RESULTS: For both males and females, the BMI distribution of Malays is shifted toward the right of the distribution of Chinese, i.e., Malays exhibit higher obesity rates. In the lower 75% of the distribution, differences in socioeconomic endowments explain none of this difference. At the 90th percentile, differences in socioeconomic endowments account for no more than 30% of the difference in BMI between ethnic groups.
CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that the higher levels of income and education that accrue with economic development will likely not eliminate obesity inequality. This leads us to conclude that reduction of obesity inequality, as well the overall level of obesity, requires increased efforts to alter the lifestyle behaviors of Malaysians.
* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.