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The growth of obesity and technological change

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  • Lakdawalla, Darius
  • Philipson, Tomas
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    Abstract

    This paper presents a dynamic theory of body weight and develops its implications. We argue that technological change has induced weight growth by making home- and market-production more sedentary and by lowering food prices through agricultural innovation. In addition, we illustrate that, while exercise and food intake are complements, reductions in exercise will always raise optimal body weight, as will increases in food intake. We also characterize how body weight varies with income, both within a country, and across countries. Within a country, income may have an inverted U-shaped relationship with body weight, due to the offsetting effects of the demand for food, and the demand for an ideal body weight. This can have important implications for the body weight impacts of public transfer programs. Across countries, however, mean weight is likely to be higher in richer countries. Finally, we present descriptive empirical evidence that illustrates the inverted U-shaped relationship between body weight and income in US males, and suggests the importance of secular trends in weight gain, which are consistent with the impacts of broad-based technological changes.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics & Human Biology.

    Volume (Year): 7 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 3 (December)
    Pages: 283-293

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:7:y:2009:i:3:p:283-293

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622964

    Related research

    Keywords: Obesity Food prices Technological change;

    References

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    1. Richards, Timothy J. & Patterson, Paul M. & Tegene, Abebayehu, 2004. "Obesity And Nutrient Consumption: A Rational Addiction?," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 20079, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    2. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Biddle, Jeff E, 1994. "Beauty and the Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1174-94, December.
    3. Dora L. Costa & Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Long-Term Trends in Health, Welfare, and Economic Growth in the United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2000. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," NBER Working Papers 7527, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Araujo, A, 1991. "The Once but Not Twice Differentiability of the Policy Function," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(5), pages 1383-93, September.
    6. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2007. "Labor Supply and Weight," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(1).
    7. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
    8. Tomas Philipson, 2001. "The world-wide growth in obesity: an economic research agenda," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(1), pages 1-7.
    9. Dana Goldman & Darius Lakdawalla & Yuhui Zheng, 2009. "Food Prices and the Dynamics of Body Weight," NBER Working Papers 15096, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Shin-Yi Chou & Michael Grossman & Henry Saffer, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," NBER Working Papers 9247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Schroeter, Christiane & Lusk, Jayson & Tyner, Wallace, 2008. "Determining the impact of food price and income changes on body weight," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 45-68, January.
    12. Jere R. Behrman & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2004. "Returns to Birthweight," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 586-601, May.
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