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International Evidence On Obesity Increases: Legal Systems And Motor Vehicle Dependence

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Abstract

We find a significant positive link between motor vehicle ownership and obesity in industrialized countries. Surprisingly this association holds for countries with a common law tradition but not for those based on civil law. These relations hold whether we examine trend data, simple correlations, cross-section regression analysis, or panel data regressions. An increase of 100 motor vehicles per thousand residents is associated with a six percentage point increase in obesity in Common Law countries but not in Civil Law countries. The robustness of this main result and the clear link between increased ownership of motor vehicles and reduced physical activity suggests the association is causal. Motor vehicle dependence is an important link in the growth of obesity in countries with a tradition of common law where individual liberty is encouraged; the link is statistically non-existent in countries with a civil law background where the rights of the individual tend to be circumscribed by the power of the state. This suggests that efforts to discourage the over-reliance on the automobile would have the greatest obesity reducing impact precisely in those countries where it is most difficult, in terms of legal heritage, to implement such measures.

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File URL: http://www.deakin.edu.au/buslaw/aef/workingpapers/papers/2008_24eco.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Deakin University, Faculty of Business and Law, School of Accounting, Economics and Finance in its series Economics Series with number 2008_24.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: 14 Nov 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:dkn:econwp:eco_2008_24

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Keywords: obesity; evidence; international; motor vehicles; common law;

References

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  1. La Porta, Rafael & Lopez-de-Silanes, Florencio & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert, 1999. "The Quality of Government," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 222-79, April.
  2. Douglas Staiger & James H. Stock, 1997. "Instrumental Variables Regression with Weak Instruments," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(3), pages 557-586, May.
  3. Tomas J. Philipson & Richard A. Posner, 1999. "The Long-Run Growth in Obesity as a Function of Technological Change," Working Papers 9912, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  4. 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.
  5. Andrei Shleifer & Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Rafael La Porta, 2008. "The Economic Consequences of Legal Origins," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(2), pages 285-332, June.
  6. Jonathan Gruber & Michael Frakes, 2005. "Does Falling Smoking Lead to Rising Obesity?," NBER Working Papers 11483, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," Working Papers 0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  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. James H. Stock & Motohiro Yogo, 2002. "Testing for Weak Instruments in Linear IV Regression," NBER Technical Working Papers 0284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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