Publications by authors named "Nidhiya Menon"

2 Publications

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Does BMI predict the early spatial variation and intensity of Covid-19 in developing countries? Evidence from India.

Nidhiya Menon

Econ Hum Biol 2021 Feb 17;41:100990. Epub 2021 Feb 17.

Department of Economics, MS 021, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA 02453, USA. Electronic address:

This paper studies BMI as a correlate of the early spatial distribution and intensity of Covid-19 across the districts of India and finds that conditional on a range of individual, household and regional characteristics, adult BMI significantly predicts the likelihood that the district is a hotspot, the natural log of the confirmed number of cases, the case fatality rate, and the propensity that the district is a red zone. Controlling for air-pollution, rainfall, temperature, demographic factors that measure population density, the proportion of the elderly, and health infrastructure including per capita health spending and the proportion of respiratory cases, does not diminish the predictive power of BMI in influencing the spatial incidence and spread of the virus. The association between adult BMI and measures of spatial outcomes is especially pronounced among educated populations in urban settings, and impervious to conditioning on differences in testing rates across states. We find that among women, BMI proxies for a range of comorbidities (hemoglobin, high blood pressure and high glucose levels) that affects the severity of the virus while among men, these health indicators are also important, as is exposure to risk of contracting the virus as measured by work propensities. We conduct sensitivity checks and control for differences that may arise due to variations in timing of onset. Our results provide a readily available health marker that may be used to identify and protect especially at-risk populations in developing countries like India.
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February 2021

Labor market engagement and the body mass index of working adults: Evidence from India.

Econ Hum Biol 2019 05 16;33:58-77. Epub 2019 Jan 16.

Department of Economics and International Business School, MS 021, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, 02454, USA. Electronic address:

Galvanized by rapid income growth, labor market transitions in the nature of jobs, and lifestyle factors, there has been an increase in rates of obesity in many developing countries. This paper examines the relationship between BMI and sector and physical intensity of work among urban adults in India. We document that BMI is positively and significantly associated with labor market inactivity. Women in white-collar work have about 1.01 kg/m higher BMI than women in blue-collar work. For working men, the comparable estimate is approximately 1.18 kg/m. We find that the increase in overall BMI originates from those who are already at high levels of BMI. Further, relative to the non-working sample, employment in a blue-collar occupation is associated with a BMI penalty for men and women. We find suggestive evidence that the increase in BMI for women is driven by a decline in energy expenditure, while both a decrease in energy expenditure and an increase in energy intake are important in explaining BMI dynamics for men. These results are robust to a variety of specification and methodological checks, and suggest that the increasing trend in BMI may be attributed to the transition towards a more sedentary occupational structure. Overall our research underlines the important role played by occupational engagement in determining the general health of populations in developing countries.
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May 2019