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Educational Attainment and Dietary Lifestyles

Food Systems and Health

ISBN: 978-1-78635-092-3, eISBN: 978-1-78635-091-6

Publication date: 29 June 2017



In this chapter, we draw on health lifestyle, human capital, and health commodity theories to examine the effects of educational attainment on a wide range of individual dietary behaviors and dietary lifestyles.


Using data from the 2005-2006 iteration of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (n = 2,135), we employ negative binomial regression and binary logistic regression to model three dietary lifestyle indices and thirteen healthy dietary behaviors.


We find that having a college degree or higher is associated with seven of the thirteen healthy dietary behaviors, including greater attention to nutrition information (general nutrition, serving size, calories, and total fat) and consumption of vegetables, protein, and dairy products. For the most part, education is unrelated to the inspection of cholesterol and sodium information and consumption of fruits/grains/sweets, and daily caloric intake. We observe that having a college degree is associated with healthier dietary lifestyles, the contemporaneous practice of multiple healthy dietary behaviors (label checking and eating behaviors). Remarkably, household income and the poverty-to-income ratio are unrelated to dietary lifestyles and have virtually no impact on the magnitude of the association between education and dietary lifestyles.


Our findings are consistent with predictions derived from health lifestyle and human capital theories. We find no support for health commodity theory, the idea that people who are advantaged in terms of education live healthier lifestyles because they tend to have the financial resources to purchase the elements of a healthy lifestyle.



Andrews, H., Hill, T.D. and Cockerham, W.C. (2017), "Educational Attainment and Dietary Lifestyles", Food Systems and Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 18), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 101-120.



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