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A macroeconomic analysis of obesity

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  • Pere Gomis-Porqueras
  • Adrian Peralta-Alva

Abstract

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 in food items, but falls short of accounting for the magnitude of the observed changes. We then consider actual declines in income taxes and in the gender wage gap, which increase the cost of preparing food at home from scratch. Our model accounts for three quarters of the observed changes in calorie consumption, and is consistent with trends in aggregate food expenditures, time use, and key macroeconomic variables. Our results indicate that changes in the relative cost of food prepared away from home play an important role in our understanding of the increased weight of the American population during the last 40 years.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2008-017.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2008-017

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Keywords: Obesity;

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References

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  1. John Knowles, 2006. "Why are Married Men Working So Much?," 2006 Meeting Papers 445, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Patrick J. Byrne & Oral Capps & Atanu Saha, 1996. "Analysis of Food-Away-from-Home Expenditure Patterns for U.S. Households, 1982–89," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(3), pages 614-627.
  3. Anderson, Patricia M. & Butcher, Kristin F. & Levine, Phillip B., 2003. "Maternal employment and overweight children," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 477-504, May.
  4. Francine D. Blau, 1998. "Trends in the Well-Being of American Women, 1970-1995," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 112-165, March.
  5. Albanesi, Stefania & Olivetti, Claudia, 2005. "Home Production, Market Production and the Gender Wage Gap: Incentives and Expectations," CEPR Discussion Papers 4984, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Burke & Heiland, 2007. "Social Dynamics Of Obesity," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(3), pages 571-591, 07.
  7. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Mehmet Yorukoglu, 2005. "Engines of Liberation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 109-133.
  8. Smith, Trenton G, 2002. "Obesity and Nature's Thumbprint: How Modern Waistlines Can Inform Economic Theory," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt31g1m028, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  9. Anna Sanz De Galdeano, 2005. "The Obesity Epidemic in Europe," CSEF Working Papers 143, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  10. Sara Bleich & David Cutler & Christopher Murray & Alyce Adams, 2007. "Why Is The Developed World Obese?," NBER Working Papers 12954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Avner Offer, 1998. "Epidemicsof Abundance: Overeating and Slimming in the USA and Britain since the 1950s," Economics Series Working Papers 1998-W25, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  12. Helen H. Jensen & Steven T. Yen, 1996. "Food Expenditures Away From Home by Type of Meal," Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics/Revue canadienne d'agroeconomie, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society/Societe canadienne d'agroeconomie, vol. 44(1), pages 67-80, 03.
  13. Lombard, Karen V, 1999. "Women's Rising Market Opportunities and Increased Labor Force Participation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(2), pages 195-212, April.
  14. Larry E. Jones & Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2003. "Why are married women working so much?," Staff Report 317, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  15. Seval Mutlu & Azucena Gracia, 2006. "Spanish food expenditure away from home (FAFH): by type of meal," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(9), pages 1037-1047.
  16. Hayashi, Fumio, 1982. "Tobin's Marginal q and Average q: A Neoclassical Interpretation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 213-24, January.
  17. David Cutler & Edward Glaeser & Jesse Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," NBER Working Papers 9446, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  19. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2006. "Measuring trends in leisure," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
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Cited by:
  1. Pedro Gomis-Porqueras & Oscar Mitnik & Adrian Peralta-Alva & Maximilian D. Schmeiser, 2011. "The Effects of Female Labor Force Participation on Obesity," Working Papers 2011-16, University of Miami, Department of Economics.
  2. Kerry Anne McGeary, 2009. "The Impact of State-Level Nutrition-Education Program Funding on BMI: Evidence from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," NBER Working Papers 15001, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Pedro Gomis-Porqueras & Fidel Gonzalez, 2009. "The Role Of Uncertainty On U.S. Obesity: An Application Of Control Theory," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2009-506, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.

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