Postprint version. Published in Human Nature, Volume 18, Issue 3, January 1, 2007, pages 209-224.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-007-9011-3.
Health research has shown that overweight and obesity in children and adults are becoming significant public health problems in the developing world. Evidence suggests that this phenomenon is more marked in urban than rural areas and may be associated with modernization. However, the underlying reasons for this nutrition transition remain unclear. Dietary shifts, often in conjunction with income and time constraints in urban environments, may entail a greater reliance on more convenient sugar and fat-dense food. Also, the necessity of labor-intensive agricultural work to meet rural subsistence needs is supplanted in urban environments by sedentary work. This paper extends the application of human behavioral ecology theory into the realm of international development and policy by applying Kaplan’s embodied capital theory to explore differences in food habits and nutritional status of Indo-Fijian children within the context of urbanization. Urban high-embodied-capital women demonstrate higher rates of wage-earning employment than urban low-embodied-capital or rural women. Findings indicate that urban high-embodied-capital households spend significantly more on food purchases, purchase a greater proportion of processed foods, and have children with higher body mass indexes (BMI) than do urban low-embodied-capital or rural households. This suggests that urban high-embodied-capital mothers, who tend to be employed, may be making trade-offs between income and food choices.
Social and Behavioral Sciences