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Food Prices and the Dynamics of Body Weight

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  • Dana Goldman
  • Darius Lakdawalla
  • Yuhui Zheng

Abstract

A popular policy option for addressing the growth in weight has has been the imposition of a “fat tax” on selected foods that are deemed to promote obesity. Understanding the public economics of “fat taxes” requires an understanding of how or even whether individuals respond to changes in food prices over the long-term. We study the short- and long-run body weight consequences of changing food prices, in the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). We found very modest short-term effects of price per calorie on body weight, and the magnitudes align with the previous literature. The long-term effect is much bigger, but it takes a long time for the effect to reach the full scale. Within 30 years, a 10% permanent reduction in price per calorie would lead to a BMI increase of 1.5 units (or 3.6%). The long term effect is an increase of 1.9 units of BMI (or 4.2%). From a policy perspective, these results suggest that policies raising the price of calories will have little effect on weight in the short term, but might curb the rate of weight growth and achieve weight reduction over a very long period of time.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15096.

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Date of creation: Jun 2009
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Publication status: published as Food Prices and the Dynamics of Body Weight , Dana Goldman, Darius Lakdawalla, Yuhui Zheng. in Economic Aspects of Obesity , Grossman and Mocan. 2011
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15096

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Cited by:
  1. Dubois, Pierre & Griffith, Rachel & Nevo, Aviv, 2013. "Do Prices and Attributes Explain International Differences in Food Purchases?," TSE Working Papers 370, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), revised May 2013.
  2. Wehby, George L. & Courtemanche, Charles J., 2012. "The heterogeneity of the cigarette price effect on body mass index," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 719-729.
  3. Bradbear, Catherine & Friel, Sharon, 2013. "Integrating climate change, food prices and population health," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 56-66.
  4. Georgia S. Papoutsi & Rodolfo M. Nayga & Panagiotis Lazaridis & Andreas C. Drichoutis, 2013. "Nudging parental health behavior with and without children's pestering power: Fat tax, subsidy or both?," Working Papers 2013-5, Agricultural University of Athens, Department Of Agricultural Economics.
  5. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2010. "Understanding Overeating and Obesity," NBER Working Papers 16149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Shu Ng & Edward Norton & David Guilkey & Barry Popkin, 2012. "Estimation of a dynamic model of weight," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 42(2), pages 413-443, April.
  7. Charles Courtemanche & Joshua C. Pinkston & Jay Stewart, 2014. "Adjusting Body Mass for Measurement Error with Invalid Validation Data," NBER Working Papers 19928, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Lakdawalla, Darius & Philipson, Tomas, 2009. "The growth of obesity and technological change," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 283-293, December.
  9. Guy E.J. Faulkner & Paul Grootendorst & Van Hai Nguyen & Tatiana Andreyeva & Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos & Chris Auld & Sean B. Cash & John Cawley & Peter Donnelly & Adam Drewnowski & Laurette Dubé & R, 2011. "Economic Instruments for Obesity Prevention: Results of a Scoping Review and Modified Delphi Survey," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series 31-11, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  10. Strulik, Holger, 2012. "A Mass Phenomenon: The Social Evolution of Obesity," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-489, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  11. McGeary, Kerry Anne, 2013. "The impact of state-level nutrition-education program funding on BMI: Evidence from the behavioral risk factor surveillance system," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 67-78.

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