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The Effects of Farm Commodity and Retail Food Policies on Obesity and Economic Welfare in the United States

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  • Abigail M. Okrent
  • Julian M. Alston

Abstract

Many commentators claim that farm subsidies have contributed significantly to the "obesity epidemic" by making fattening foods relatively cheap and abundant and, symmetrically, that taxing "unhealthy" commodities or subsidizing "healthy" commodities would contribute to reducing obesity rates. In this article we use an equilibrium displacement model to estimate and compare the economic welfare effects from a range of hypothetical farm commodity and retail food policies as alternative mechanisms for encouraging consumption of healthy food or discouraging consumption of unhealthy food, or both. We find that, compared with retail taxes on fat, sugar, or all food, or subsidies on fruits and vegetables at the farm or retail levels, a tax on calories would be the most efficient obesity policy. A tax on calories would have the lowest deadweight loss per pound of fat reduction in average adult weight, and would yield a net social gain once the impact on public health care expenditures is considered. Copyright 2012, Oxford University Press.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Agricultural and Applied Economics Association in its journal American Journal of Agricultural Economics.

Volume (Year): 94 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 611-646

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Handle: RePEc:oup:ajagec:v:94:y:2012:i:3:p:611-646

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References

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  1. Bradley J. Rickard & Abigail M. Okrent & Julian M. Alston, 2013. "How Have Agricultural Policies Influenced Caloric Consumption In The United States?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(3), pages 316-339, 03.
  2. John C. Beghin & Helen H. Jensen, 2008. "Farm Policies and Added Sugars in US Diets," Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) Publications 08-wp462, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) at Iowa State University.
  3. Miao, Zhen & Beghin, John C. & Jensen, Helen H., 2010. "Taxing Sweets: Sweetener Input Tax or Final Consumption Tax?," 2010 Annual Meeting, July 25-27, 2010, Denver, Colorado 61511, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  4. Miller, J. Corey & Coble, Keith H., 2007. "Cheap food policy: Fact or rhetoric?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 98-111, February.
  5. Cash, Sean B. & Sunding, David L. & Zilberman, David, 2004. "Fat Taxes And Thin Subsidies: Prices, Diet, And Health Outcomes," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 19961, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  6. Sato, Ryuzo & Koizumi, Tetsunori, 1973. "On the Elasticities of Substitution and Complementarity," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 44-56, March.
  7. Smed, Sinne & Jensen, Jorgen D. & Denver, Sigrid, 2007. "Socio-economic characteristics and the effect of taxation as a health policy instrument," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(5-6), pages 624-639.
  8. Smith, Travis A. & Biing-Hwan, Lin & Lee, Jonq-Ying, 2010. "Taxing Caloric Sweetened Beverages: Potential Effects on Beverage Consumption, Calorie Intake, and Obesity," Economic Research Report 95465, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  9. Nicholas E. Piggott, 2003. "Measures of precision for estimated welfare effects for producers from generic advertising," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(3), pages 379-391.
  10. Chouinard Hayley H & Davis David E & LaFrance Jeffrey T & Perloff Jeffrey M, 2007. "Fat Taxes: Big Money for Small Change," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(2), pages 1-30, June.
  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. Okrent, Abigail M. & Alston, Julian M., 2010. "The Demand for Food in the United States: A Review of the Literature, Evaluation of Previous Estimates, and Presentation of New Estimates of Demand," 2010 Annual Meeting, July 25-27, 2010, Denver, Colorado 61674, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  13. Salois, Matthew J. & Tiffin, J. Richard, 2011. "The Impacts of Fat Taxes and Thin Subsidies on Nutrient Intakes," 85th Annual Conference, April 18-20, 2011, Warwick University, Coventry, UK 108789, Agricultural Economics Society.
  14. Guthrie, Joanne F., 2004. "Understanding Fruit and Vegetable Choices: Economic and Behavioral Influences," Agricultural Information Bulletins 33605, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Alston, Julian M. & Okrent, Abigail M. & Parks, Joanna, 2013. "Effects of U.S. Public Agricultural R&D on U.S. Obesity and its Social Costs," Working Papers 162524, Robert Mondavi Institute Center for Wine Economics.
  2. Alston, Julian M. & Okrent, Abigail M. & Parks, Joanna, 2013. "Effects of U.S. Public Agricultural R&D on U.S. Obesity and its Social Costs- Revised," Working Papers 162530, Robert Mondavi Institute Center for Wine Economics.
  3. repec:ags:aare13:148420 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Chavas, Jean-Paul, 2013. "On the microeconomics of food and malnutrition under endogenous discounting," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 80-96.
  5. repec:ags:remeag:163039 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Liaukonyte, Jura & Rickard, Bradley J. & Kaiser, Harry M. & Richards, Timothy J., 2010. "Evaluating advertising strategies for fruits and vegetables and the implications for obesity in the United States," Working Papers 126972, Cornell University, Department of Applied Economics and Management.
  7. repec:ags:remeag:163037 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. repec:ags:remeag:163038 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Alston, Julian M. & Pardey, Philip G., 2014. "Agricultural R&D, Food Prices, Poverty and Malnutrition Redux," Staff Papers 162413, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.
  10. repec:ags:remeag:163036 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Okrent, Abigail M. & Alston, Julian M., 2011. "Demand for Food in the United States: A Review of Literature, Evaluation of Previous Estimates, and Presentation of New Estimates of Demand," Working Papers 162515, Robert Mondavi Institute Center for Wine Economics.

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