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The growth of obesity and technological change

  • Lakdawalla, Darius
  • Philipson, Tomas
Registered author(s):

    This paper presents a dynamic theory of body weight and develops its implications. We argue that technological change has induced weight growth by making home- and market-production more sedentary and by lowering food prices through agricultural innovation. In addition, we illustrate that, while exercise and food intake are complements, reductions in exercise will always raise optimal body weight, as will increases in food intake. We also characterize how body weight varies with income, both within a country, and across countries. Within a country, income may have an inverted U-shaped relationship with body weight, due to the offsetting effects of the demand for food, and the demand for an ideal body weight. This can have important implications for the body weight impacts of public transfer programs. Across countries, however, mean weight is likely to be higher in richer countries. Finally, we present descriptive empirical evidence that illustrates the inverted U-shaped relationship between body weight and income in US males, and suggests the importance of secular trends in weight gain, which are consistent with the impacts of broad-based technological changes.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B73DX-4X378FB-1/2/4b2050a7e78db0ef107ee2153246425e
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics & Human Biology.

    Volume (Year): 7 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 3 (December)
    Pages: 283-293

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:7:y:2009:i:3:p:283-293
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622964

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    1. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2000. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," NBER Working Papers 7527, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Richards, Timothy J. & Patterson, Paul M. & Tegene, Abebayehu, 2004. "Obesity and Nutrient Consumption: A Rational Addiction?," Working Papers 28539, Arizona State University, Morrison School of Agribusiness and Resource Management.
    3. Araujo, A, 1991. "The Once but Not Twice Differentiability of the Policy Function," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(5), pages 1383-93, September.
    4. John Komlos & Ariane Breitfelder & Marco Sunder, 2008. "The Transition to Post-industrial BMI Values Among US Children," NBER Working Papers 13898, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Shin-Yi Chou & Michael Grossman & Henry Saffer, 2002. "An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," NBER Working Papers 9247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Dana Goldman & Darius Lakdawalla & Yuhui Zheng, 2011. "Food Prices and the Dynamics of Body Weight," NBER Chapters, in: Economic Aspects of Obesity, pages 65-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Dora L. Costa & Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Long-Term Trends in Health, Welfare, and Economic Growth in the United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2007. "Labor Supply and Weight," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 42(1).
    9. Daniel S. Hamermesh & Jeff E. Biddle, 1993. "Beauty and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 4518, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Jere R. Behrman & Mark R. Rosenzweig, 2004. "Returns to Birthweight," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 86(2), pages 586-601, May.
    11. Schroeter, Christiane & Lusk, Jayson & Tyner, Wallace, 2008. "Determining the impact of food price and income changes on body weight," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 45-68, January.
    12. Tomas Philipson, 2001. "The world-wide growth in obesity: an economic research agenda," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(1), pages 1-7.
    13. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
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