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Epidemics of Abundance: Overeating and Slimming in the USA and Britain since the 1950s

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  • Avner Offer

    ()
    (Nuffield College, Oxford)

Abstract

Body weight has risen in defiance of health and appearance norms. The social epidemics of overeating and slimming were driven by market forces and the psychology of eating: restrained eating is easily disinhibited by stress. For men, the rise in body weight was associated with the decline of family eating and exposure to greater food variety. For women, the ‘cult of slimming’ was associated with mating competition, driven initially by adverse sex ratios. Food abundance made a mockery of the rational consumer. Paradoxically, the costs of abundance fell more heavily on the poor, who have had less access to the resources of self-control.

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File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/2261/25offera4.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford in its series Oxford University Economic and Social History Series with number _025.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: 01 Nov 1998
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_025

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Web page: http://www.nuff.ox.ac.uk/economics/

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  1. Claudia Goldin, 1990. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gold90-1, May.
  2. Deaton, Angus, 1992. "Understanding Consumption," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288244.
  3. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Jeff E. Biddle, 1993. "Beauty and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 4518, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1996. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(2), pages 304-330.
  5. Hausman,Daniel M., 1992. "The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521415019, October.
  6. Hausman,Daniel M., 1992. "The Inexact and Separate Science of Economics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521425230, October.
  7. Avner Offer, 1997. "Between the gift and the market: the economy of regard," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 50(3), pages 450-476, 08.
  8. Stigler, George J & Becker, Gary S, 1977. "De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(2), pages 76-90, March.
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Cited by:
  1. J.Humphries & T. Leunig, 2007. "Cities, Market Integration and Going to Sea: Stunting and the standard of living in early nineteenth-century England and Wales," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _066, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  2. Mohammad Niaz Asadullah, 2006. "Educational Disparity in East and West Pakistan, 1947–71: Was East Pakistan Discriminated Against?," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _063, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  3. Natalia Mora-Sitja, 2006. "Exploring Changes in Earnings Inequality during Industrialization: Barcelona, 1856-1905," Economics Series Working Papers 2006-W61, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  4. Paul A. David & Gavin Wright, . "General Purpose Technologies and Surges in Productivity: Historical Reflections on the Future of the ICT Revolution," Working Papers 99026, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  5. Liam Brunt, 1999. "An Arbitrage Model in Crop Rotation in 18th Century England," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _032, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  6. Regina Grafe, 2004. "Popish Habits vs. Nutritional Need: Fasting and Fish Consumption in Iberia in the Early Modern Period," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _055, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  7. Pere Gomis-Porqueras & Adrian Peralta-Alva, 2008. "A macroeconomic analysis of obesity," Working Papers 2008-017, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
  8. Camilla Brautaset & Regina Grafe, 2006. "The Quiet Transport Revolution: Returns to scale, scope and network density in Norway's nineteenth-century sailing fleet," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _062, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  9. Liam Brunt, 1999. "An Arbitrage Model in Crop Rotation in 18th Century England," Economics Series Working Papers 1999-W32, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

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