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An unhealthy attitude? New insight into the modest effects of the NLEA


  • Mark Patterson
  • Saurabh Bhargava
  • George Loewenstein

    (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)


We investigate the impact of the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act on attitudes and behaviors, using newly available survey data from several thousand consumers. Consistent with prior literature, we find that the introduction of the standardized labels only modestly affected purchasing behavior. However, we find that the limited success of the policy is not attributable to inattention to labels, or to the inability of consumers to act in accordance with their attitudes, but rather to the fact that the labels did not meaningfully shift consumer attitudes in favor of healthy eating. We interpret the failure of the labels to shift consumer attitudes as motivating the need for more psychologically informed labels or alternative policies that address the fundamental causes of poor diets.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Patterson & Saurabh Bhargava & George Loewenstein, 2017. "An unhealthy attitude? New insight into the modest effects of the NLEA," Journal of Behavioral Economics for Policy, Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics (SABE), vol. 1(1), pages 15-26, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:beh:jbepv1:v:1:y:2017:i:1:p:15-26

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    Cited by:

    1. Meder, Björn & Fleischhut, Nadine & Osman, Magda, 2018. "Beyond the confines of choice architecture: A critical analysis," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 36-44.

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    More about this item


    health policy; obesity; nutrition; information disclosure; health attitudes;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • K20 - Law and Economics - - Regulation and Business Law - - - General
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles


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