Social dynamics of obesity
In order to explain the substantial recent increases in obesity rates in the United States, we consider the effect of falling food prices in the context of a model involving endogenous body weight norms and an explicit, empirically grounded description of human metabolism. Unlike previous representative agent models of price-induced gains in average weight, our model, by including metabolic heterogeneity, is able to capture changes in additional features of the distribution, such as the dramatic growth in upper-quartile weights that are not readily inferred from the representative agent ...
Is obesity contagious?: social networks vs. environmental factors in the obesity epidemic
This note?s aim is to investigate the sensitivity of Christakis and Fowler?s claim (NEJM July 26, 2007) that obesity has spread through social networks. It is well known in the economics literature that failure to include contextual effects can lead to spurious inference on ?social network effects.? We replicate the NEJM results using their specification and a complementary dataset. We find that point estimates of the ?social network effect? are reduced and become statistically indistinguishable from zero once standard econometric techniques are implemented. We further note the presence of ...
A macroeconomic analysis of obesity
This paper tries to understand the underlying causes of the rapid increase in obesity rates over recent decades. In particular, we propose a dynamic general equilibrium model to derive the quantitative implications of a decline in the relative (monetary and time) cost of food prepared away from home on the caloric intake of the average American adult over the last forty years. Two channels that lower this relative cost are considered. First, productivity improvements in the production of food prepared away from home. We and that this channel is qualitatively consistent with expenditure trends ...
The effects of female labor force participation on obesity
This paper assesses whether a causal relationship exists between recent increases in female labor force participation and the increased prevalence of obesity amongst women. The expansions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in the 1980s and 1990s have been established by prior literature as having generated variation in female labor supply, particularly amongst single mothers. Here, we use this plausibly exogenous variation in female labor supply to identify the effect of labor force participation on obesity status. We use data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and replicate ...
Childhood obesity: an issue for public health advocates, researchers, and community development practitioners
Obesity rates for U.S. children have risen precipitously over the past 20 years. According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1999?2002, 15 percent of children on average, ages 2?19 are obese. With little evidence that individual weight loss programs can solve the problem, attention is increasingly turning to the environment in which children live, in an effort to understand both the causes of and potential solutions to childhood obesity. Drawing on recent research, this article provides an overview of childhood obesity trends from the 1970s to 2002, ...
Obesity, disability, and the labor force
Men of prime working age have increased their non-employment rates over the past 30 years, and disability rates have also increased. Many have noted that this increase has happened against a backdrop of generally improving health in the U.S. population. However, obesity has increased substantially over this period. The authors find that changes in the characteristics of male workers?including age, race, ethnicity, and obesity levels?can explain a large portion (around 40 percent) of the increase in non-employment.
Pricing Vice: Can \\"sin taxes\\" be good for your health and the economy?
It's rare for a tax to become trendy. But that's what's been going on in cities across the United States when it comes to soda taxes -
Race, obesity, and the puzzle of gender specificity
Obesity is significantly more prevalent among non-Hispanic African-American (henceforth ?black?) women than among non-Hispanic white American (henceforth ?white?) women. These differences have persisted without much alteration since the early 1970s, despite substantial increases in the rates of obesity among both groups. Over the same time period, however, we observe little to no significant differences in the prevalence of obesity between black men and white men. Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System ...
Has overweight become the new normal?: evidence of a generational shift in body weight norms
We test for differences across the two most recent NHANES survey periods (1988?1994 and 1999?2004) in self-perception of weight status. We find that the probability of self-classifying as overweight is significantly lower on average in the more recent survey, for both men and women, controlling for objective weight status and other factors. Among women, the decline in the tendency to self-classify as overweight is concentrated in the 17?35 age range, and, within this range, is more pronounced among women with normal BMI than among those with overweight BMI. Among men, the shift away from ...