An obvious and discouraging aspect of American inequality is the increasing association between obesity and low income, including among children. Here, for example, is median income by BMI and mean BMI by income for the 3rd and 4th graders in the ECLS-K: 2011 cohort (who finished 4th grade in 2015):
This is equally apparent at a school level- overweight students are on average in schools with a higher percentage of students receiving free lunch (ie, low income)
As with many aspects of American inequality, these relationships mirror but are not entirely due to racial differences and changing demography: lower income groups are on average higher BMI, but within each group, upper income households also have lower BMI children, on average:
Going along with these patterns, perhaps, some recent research suggests girls in upper income, more highly educated, and more highly female schools are more likely to develop an eating disorder, suggesting that in those settings the social pressure to be thin may be strongest:
Among adults, as well, a larger percentage of upper income than lower income men and women (and a larger percentage of women than men) had tried to lose weight:
Obesity is perhaps uniquely visible among negative signals of social status, even as the combination of quantity and type of our diet, sedentary media use, and diminished outdoor play appear to be highly obesogenic for children as well as American adults.
It is possible (particularly as lower income women’s birth rates have declined fastest in the last few years) that aggregate childhood obesity rates will plateau or even decline. I’d be skeptical, though, that its association with status and income will weaken anytime soon.