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July 07, 2008

Richard Florida

Fatness Index

« Denser | Main | Humanities and Social Sciences Talk »


Source: Strange Maps (via Andrew Sullivan).


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Whitney Gunderson

This is a good map. I wish it weren't classified as a "strange map," because the obesity issue needs to be taken more seriously. It would be interesting to see the number of fast-food restaurants per capita for the 50 states, but that's a different project.

Michael Wells

Diet and exercise is the key to healthy weight, as every study shows. The diet in the South, heavy into deep-fry is a prime culprit in those states. This also affects much of the African-American population which has often brought southern "soul food" cooking to the rest of the country.

It would be interesting to see a map by city or county. In close-in Portland you can hardly step outside without dodging skinny bicyclists. I'd guess Oregon's ratings are affected by the rural Eastern counties and maybe southern coast.

Note that this map is of medically obese people with health risks, not just overweight. Every state has over 50% overweight population.

David Eaves

This is an interesting map. So much so it inspired me to create a map that extended the analysis to Canada. Interesting to compare.
Hope you find this interesting.

Whitney Gunderson

Interesting comparison David. In the future, does this mean the U.S. will slim down, or will Canada fatten up? When visiting Europe, I mentioned to a family member that most Europeans seemed to be in better physical shape than those in the U.S., even though way more Europeans smoke cigarettes. He agreed, but then said.... "But not for long, 'its' coming to Europe too."


Whitney, I'd say there's no guarantee things will equalize over the long term. The current trend in Canada is definitely increasing obesity, but I doubt Canada will reach the US average (we just don't have as much "soul food", and have somewhat less of a car culture). But I'm not sure having slimmer neighbours to the north will encourage the US to lose weight.

Michael Wells


Do you have any access to stats for Mexico? Would be interesting to see the whole continent.

Interesting to see BC next to Alaska, the fattest state West of the Great Plains. Apparently, it's not the latitude, it's the attitude.

Michael Wells

I wonder what the meaning is of the overlap with the political Blue and Red States? There's obviously a high correlation between a State's obesity and its tendency to vote Republican (compare this with the CNN map at http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/06/10/electoral.map/index.html)

Maybe the "traditional values" voter is more likely to eat "traditional" foods, heavy on red meat and fat? Maybe the more liberal voter is more likely to exercise for recreation?

Michael Wells

If you want to see the CNN map, when your browser opens you have to take off the last parens ), which gets included in the URL.

Whitney Gunderson

The overlap between blue and red states and states with a serious obesity problem is hard to say for sure. Arizona is traditionally red, but is one of the slimmer states. The Great Plains states are solid red, but on average, aren't seriously obese. Interesting note - Kansas and Arizona are two of the reddest states in the country, but both have female Democratic governors.

David Eaves

Hi Michael and Whitney

I haven't really looked for data on Mexico (broken down by state). My gut tells me it wouldn't be easy to locate. (Indeed a quick google search didn't turn up anything obvious).

I had predicted that obesity levels in Mexico would be relatively low - indeed lower than in Canada, although this old NYT article is giving me pause:


David - what a GREAT map. I just made it a post. Our team is working on a wide variety of North American maps. Maybe we should collaborate. We want to encourage as much of this as possible! Thank you for developing that map.

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