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Impatience, Incentives, and Obesity

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  • Charles J. Courtemanche
  • Garth Heutel
  • Patrick McAlvanah

Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between time preferences, economic incentives, and body mass index (BMI). Using data from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we first show that greater impatience increases BMI even after controlling for demographic, human capital, and occupational characteristics as well as income and risk preference. Next, we provide evidence of an interaction effect between time preference and food prices, with cheaper food leading to the largest weight gains among those exhibiting the most impatience. The interaction of changing economic incentives with heterogeneous discounting may help explain why increases in BMI have been concentrated amongst the right tail of the distribution, where the health consequences are especially severe. Lastly, we model time-inconsistent preferences by computing individuals’quasi-hyperbolic discounting parameters (β and δ). Both long-run patience (δ) and present-bias (β) predict BMI, suggesting obesity is partly attributable to rational intertemporal tradeoffs but also partly to time inconsistency.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17483.

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Date of creation: Oct 2011
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Publication status: published as "Impatience, Incentives, and Obesity." (with Charles Courtemanche and Patrick McAlvanah), forthcoming, The Economic Journal.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17483

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Cited by:
  1. Johnston, D.W.; & Lordan, G.;, 2012. "My body is fat and my wallet is thin: The link between weight perceptions, weight control and income," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 12/27, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
  2. De Paola, Maria & Gioia, Francesca, 2013. "Does Patience Matter for Marriage Stability? Some Evidence from Italy," IZA Discussion Papers 7769, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Liu, Yaqin & Ferreira, Susana & Colson, Gregory & Wetzstein, Michael, 2013. "Obesity and Counseling," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 149947, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  4. Silvia Barbaresco & Charles J. Courtemanche & Yanling Qi, 2014. "Impacts of the Affordable Care Act Dependent Coverage Provision on Health-Related Outcomes of Young Adults," NBER Working Papers 20148, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Charles J. Courtemanche & Daniela Zapata, 2012. "Does Universal Coverage Improve Health? The Massachusetts Experience," NBER Working Papers 17893, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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