NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 16, 2006

California is supposed to be the Golden State of beautiful people.  But according to a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), Californians are almost as fat as the rest of America, says the Economist.


  • In 1990 some 10 percent of the state's adults were considered medically obese.
  • By 2003 the proportion had more than doubled.
  • Factor in fat, as well as the gross weight, and only around half of Californians are of "normal" weight for their height.

One explanation for the weight gain, says the PPIC, lies in racial and ethnic differences:

  • California's Latinos, who make up 35 percent of the population, and blacks (around 7 percent), are much more likely to be overweight than California's non-Hispanic whites (45 percent) or Asians (12 percent).
  • For example, the average five-foot-four-inch white woman in 2003 weighed 149 pounds, her Latina counterpart 163 pounds, and her black counterpart 166 pounds.
  • According to the "body mass index" used by weight-watch analysts, all three were overweight, with the black woman only eight pounds away from obesity.

And in addition to being unhealthy, increasing weight is also costly:

  • Five years ago America's surgeon-general estimated that excessive weight cost the nation roughly $117 billion in direct and indirect costs, from health care to lost productivity.
  • One report last year estimated the cost to California alone was $21.7 billion in 2000.
  • With Latinos already accounting for 40 percent of California's obese adults -- and growing -- that cost is likely to increase.

Source: Editorial, "California Eating," the Economist, October 5, 2006.


Browse more articles on Health Issues