Is There An Association Between Gasoline Prices & Physical Activity?Evidence from American Time Use Data
AbstractObesity is epidemic in the U.S, and there is an imperative need to identify policy tools that may help fight this epidemic. A recent paper in the economics literature finds an inverse relationship between gasoline prices and obesity-risk --- suggesting that increased gasoline prices via higher gasoline taxes may have the effect of reducing obesity prevalence. This study builds upon that paper. It utilizes cross-sectional time-series data from the American Time Use Survey over 2003-2008, utilizes the increases that occurred in gasoline prices in this period due to Hurricane Katrina and to the global spike in gasoline prices as a ‘natural experiment’, and explores how time spent by Americans on different forms of physical activity is associated with gasoline price levels. Economic theory suggests that higher gasoline prices may alter individual behavior both via a ‘substitution effect’ whereby people seek alternatives to motorized transportation, and an ‘income effect’ whereby the effect of higher gasoline prices on the disposable family budget lead people to make various adjustments to what they spend money on. The latter may lead to some increase in physical activity (for example, doing one’s own yard work instead of hiring help), but may also lead to decreases in other physical activities that involve expenses, such as team sports or work-outs at the gym. Thus, ultimately, the relationship between gasoline prices and physical activity must be empirically determined. Results from multivariate regression models with state and time fixed-effects indicate that higher gasoline prices are associated with an overall increase of physical activity that is at least moderately energy intensive. The increases are most pronounced in periods where gasoline prices fluctuate more sharply. These results appear robust to a number of model specifications. One of the major components of this increase appear to be an increase in housework that is at least moderately energy intensive – such as interior and exterior cleaning, garden and yard work, etc. This tentatively suggests that there is an ‘income effect’ of higher gasoline prices. However, the increases in physical activity associated with increased gasoline prices are weaker among minorities and low socioeconomic status (SES) individuals. Hence, while a policy which increases gasoline prices via raised gasoline taxes may have benefits in terms of increasing overall physical activity levels in the U.S., one concern is that these benefits may not accrue to low SES individuals to the same extent as to their higher SES counterparts.
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 31229.
Date of creation: 30 Apr 2011
Date of revision:
Gasoline Prices; Physical Activity; Income Effect; Substitution Effect; Housework;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Production
- I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003.
"Why Have Americans Become More Obese?,"
Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers
1994, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996.
"Are Recessions Good For Your Health?,"
NBER Working Papers
5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Duan, Naihua, et al, 1983. "A Comparison of Alternative Models for the Demand for Medical Care," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 1(2), pages 115-26, April.
- Christopher J. Ruhm, 2003.
"Healthy Living in Hard Times,"
NBER Working Papers
9468, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Michael Grossman & Naci H. Mocan, 2011. "Economic Aspects of Obesity," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gros09-1.
- Christopher J. Ruhm & William E. Black, 2001.
"Does Drinking Really Decrease in Bad Times?,"
NBER Working Papers
8511, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- David C. Grabowski & Michael A. Morrisey, 2004. "Gasoline prices and motor vehicle fatalities," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(3), pages 575-593.
- Cutler, David & Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- Daniel S. Hamermesh & Harley Frazis & Jay Stewart, 2005. "Data Watch: The American Time Use Survey," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 221-232, Winter.
- John Cawley & Feng Liu, 2007.
"Maternal Employment and Childhood Obesity: A Search for Mechanisms in Time Use Data,"
NBER Working Papers
13600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Cawley, John & Liu, Feng, 2012. "Maternal employment and childhood obesity: A search for mechanisms in time use data," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 352-364.
- Ruhm, Christopher J., 2003. "Good times make you sick," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(4), pages 637-658, July.
- Brons, Martijn & Nijkamp, Peter & Pels, Eric & Rietveld, Piet, 2008. "A meta-analysis of the price elasticity of gasoline demand. A SUR approach," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 2105-2122, September.
- Bisakha Sen & Stephen Mennemeyer & Lisa C. Gary, 2011. "The Relationship between Perceptions of Neighborhood Characteristics and Obesity among Children," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Aspects of Obesity, pages 145-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ekkehart Schlicht).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.