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Are Restaurants Really Supersizing America?

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  • Michael L. Anderson
  • David A. Matsa

Abstract

While many researchers and policymakers infer from correlations between eating out and body weight that restaurants are a leading cause of obesity, a basic identification problem challenges these conclusions. We exploit the placement of Interstate Highways in rural areas to obtain exogenous variation in the effective price of restaurants and examine the impact on body mass. We find no causal link between restaurant consumption and obesity. Analysis of food-intake micro-data suggests that consumers offset calories from restaurant meals by eating less at other times. We conclude that regulation targeting restaurants is unlikely to reduce obesity but could decrease consumer welfare. (JEL I12, I18, L51, L66)

Suggested Citation

  • Michael L. Anderson & David A. Matsa, 2011. "Are Restaurants Really Supersizing America?," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 152-188, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:3:y:2011:i:1:p:152-88
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.3.1.152
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Chandra, Amitabh & Thompson, Eric, 2000. "Does public infrastructure affect economic activity?: Evidence from the rural interstate highway system," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 457-490, July.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • L66 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Food; Beverages; Cosmetics; Tobacco

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