Patty Anderson

 Professor of Economics

Patty Anderson

6106 Rockefeller Hall
Department of Economics
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755-3514 USA

Office: 316 Rockefeller Hall
Phone: (603) 646-2532
Fax: (603) 646-2122


Curriculum Vitae

Papers and Publications



Reading Writing and Raisinets: Are School Finances Contributing to Children’s Obesity?

            Joint with Kristin F. Butcher

The proportion of adolescents in the United States who are obese has nearly tripled over the last two decades.  At the same time, schools, often citing financial pressures, have given students greater access to “junk” foods and soda pop, using proceeds from these sales to fund school programs. We examine whether schools under financial pressure are more likely to adopt potentially unhealthful food policies. Next, we examine whether students’ Body Mass Index (BMI) is higher in counties where a greater proportion of schools are predicted to allow these food policies. Because the financial pressure variables that predict school food policies are unlikely to affect BMI directly, this two step estimation strategy addresses the potential endogeneity of school food policies.  We find that a 10 percentage point increase in the proportion of schools in a county that allow students access to junk food leads to about a one percent increase in students’ BMI, on average. However, this average effect is entirely driven by adolescents who have an overweight parent, for whom the effect of such food policies is much larger (2.2%). This suggests that those adolescents who have a genetic or family susceptibility to obesity are most affected by the school food environment. A rough calculation suggests that the increase in availability of junk foods in schools can account for about one-fifth of the increase in average BMI among adolescents over the last decade.

Childhood Obesity:  Trends and Potential Causes

            Joint with Kristin F. Butcher

(This paper was prepared for the Future of Children special issue on Childhood Obesity.)

This paper reviews the literature on the potential causes of the increase in childhood obesity.

Economic Perspectives on Childhood Obesity

            Joint with Kristin F. Butcher and Phillip B. Levine

(This paper is accessible on-line through the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago publication:  Economic Perspectives.)

This paper provides a clear presentation of the recent trends and the basic issues in the economics of childhood obesity. Additionally, it takes a closer look at changes in children’s home and school environment and discusses how these might result in changes in obesity.  We both review the existing literature in these areas and discuss future areas for research.


Maternal Employment and Overweight Children

            Joint with Kristin F. Butcher and Phillip B. Levine

(Published in JHE, May 2003)

This paper seeks to determine whether a causal relationship exists between maternal employment and childhood overweight.  We use matched mother/child data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and employ econometric techniques to control for observable and unobservable differences across individuals and families that may influence both children’s weight and their mothers’ work patterns.  Our results indicate that a child is more likely to be overweight if his/her mother worked more hours per week over the child’s life. Analyses by subgroups show that it is higher socioeconomic status mothers whose work intensity is particularly deleterious for their children’s overweight status.

Where the Boys No Longer Are:  Recent Trends in U.S. College Enrollment Patterns

Since the early 1970’s, the fraction of college students who are male has dropped from about 56 percent to under 44 percent, leading the popular press to ask where the boys are.  This paper investigates the broad range of influences that appear to play a role in determining these trends.  An important component is the behavior of earlier cohorts of women, who enrolled less frequently than males when young, but later made up for this lack of higher education by enrolling at older ages.  At the same time, though, young female high school graduates are currently more likely than males to enroll in college.  While male college graduates earn more than females, male high school graduates also earn more than females.  I find evidence suggestive of a role for increasing discount rates making the high school (college) differential more (less) important over time.


Unemployment Insurance Tax Burdens and Benefits:  Funding Family Leave Benefits and Reforming the Payroll Tax

            Joint with Bruce D. Meyer

(Forthcoming, National Tax Journal)

We examine the distributional consequences of the UI payroll tax using representative individual microdata. We calculate taxes paid by individual wage and individual and household income deciles, incorporating the effects of multiple job holding and turnover. This tax distribution is compared with the distribution of UI benefits and benefits net of taxes, as well as to the burdens imposed by the federal income tax.  We conclude that the UI payroll tax is indeed quite regressive.  Within the context of the regular UI program, this regressivity is offset by the progressive nature of benefits, leaving the net benefit distribution progressive.  We simulate a revenue-neutral increase to the OASDI level of the taxable wage base.  The share of total UI taxes paid becomes fairly equal, and net benefits become positive across more deciles.  Finally, we examine the effect of providing family leave within the UI system as recently proposed.  We find that the share of such benefits going to relatively high-income groups is likely to be much larger than is the case for regular UI benefits.