Native American Obesity: An Economic Model of the "Thrifty Gene" Theory
AbstractNative American obesity and the associated health conditions are generally thought to result in part from a genetic predisposition to overeating fats and carbohydrates, called the "thrifty gene." Although coined by nutritional scientists, this study maintains the origin of the thrifty gene lies in economics. Apparently harmful overconsumption and addiction constitute economically rational behavior if the increment to current utility from adding to one's stock of "consumption capital" is greater than the present value of utility lost in the future due to ill health and the costs of withdrawal. Tests of these conditions for such "rational addiction" are conducted using two-stage household production approach. The results obtained by estimating this model in a panel of Native and non-Native supermarket scanner data show that both Natives and non-Natives tend to be inherently forward-looking in their nutrient choices, but Natives tend to have far higher long-run demand elasticities for carbohydrates compared to non-Natives. Consequently, reductions in real food prices over time, primarily among foods that are dense in simple carbohydrates, leads Native Americans to over-consume potentially harmful nutrients relative to their traditional diet.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Arizona State University, Morrison School of Agribusiness and Resource Management in its series Working Papers with number 28544.
Date of creation: 2004
Date of revision:
Type II diabetes; household production; Native Americans; demand estimation; shadow values.; Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety;
Other versions of this item:
- Richards, Timothy J. & Patterson, Paul M., 2004. "Native American Obesity: An Economic Model Of The Thrifty Gene Theory," 2004 Annual Meeting, June 30-July 2, 2004, Honolulu, Hawaii 36208, Western Agricultural Economics Association.
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- Anne Gordon & Vanessa Oddo, 2012. "Addressing Child Hunger and Obesity in Indian Country: Report to Congress," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 7366, Mathematica Policy Research.
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