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Outcomes in a Program that Offers Financial Rewards for Weight Loss

In: Economic Aspects of Obesity

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  • John Cawley
  • Joshua A. Price

Abstract

Obesity rates in the U.S. have doubled since 1980. Given the medical, social, and financial costs of obesity, a large percentage of Americans are attempting to lose weight at any given time but the vast majority of weight loss attempts fail. Researchers continue to search for safe and effective methods of weight loss, and this paper examines one promising method - offering financial rewards for weight loss. This paper studies data on 2,407 employees in 17 worksites who participated in a year-long worksite health promotion program that offered financial rewards for weight loss. The intervention varied by employer, in some cases offering steady quarterly rewards for weight loss and in other cases requiring participants to post a bond that would be refunded at year's end conditional on achieving certain weight loss goals. Still others received no financial incentives at all and serve as a control group. We examine the basic patterns of enrollment, attrition, and weight loss in these three groups. Weight loss is modest. After one year, it averages 1.4 pounds for those paid steady quarterly rewards and 3.6 pounds for those who posted a refundable bond, under the assumption that dropouts experienced no weight loss. Year-end attrition is as high as 76.4%, far higher than that for interventions designed and implemented by researchers.
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Suggested Citation

  • John Cawley & Joshua A. Price, 2011. "Outcomes in a Program that Offers Financial Rewards for Weight Loss," NBER Chapters,in: Economic Aspects of Obesity, pages 91-126 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:11816
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    11. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1993:83:3:395-401_8 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. John A. List & Anya Samek, 2017. "A Field Experiment on the Impact of Incentives on Milk Choice in the Lunchroom," Public Finance Review, , vol. 45(1), pages 44-67, January.
    2. Boris Augurzky & Thomas K. Bauer & Arndt R. Reichert & Christoph M. Schmidt & Harald Tauchmann, 2012. "Does Money Burn Fat? – Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," Ruhr Economic Papers 0368, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
    3. repec:eee:socmed:v:185:y:2017:i:c:p:63-70 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Johannesson Magnus & Östling Robert & Ranehill Eva, 2010. "The Effect of Competition on Physical Activity: A Randomized Trial," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, pages 1-31.
    5. Scott A. Carson, 2013. "US Male Obesity from 1800-2000: A Long Term Perspective," CESifo Working Paper Series 4366, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Cuffe, H.E. & Harbaugh, W.T. & Lindo, J.M. & Musto, G. & Waddell, G.R., 2012. "Evidence on the efficacy of school-based incentives for healthy living," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1028-1036.
    7. List, John A. & Samek, Anya Savikhin, 2015. "The behavioralist as nutritionist: Leveraging behavioral economics to improve child food choice and consumption," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 135-146.
    8. Augurzky, Boris & Bauer, Thomas K. & Reichert, Arndt R. & Schmidt, Christoph M. & Tauchmann, Harald, 2012. "Does Money Burn Fat? – Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," Ruhr Economic Papers 368, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    9. repec:zbw:rwirep:0368 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:eee:socmed:v:192:y:2017:i:c:p:18-27 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Schofield, Heather & Loewenstein, George & Kopsic, Jessica & Volpp, Kevin G., 2015. "Comparing the effectiveness of individualistic, altruistic, and competitive incentives in motivating completion of mental exercises," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 286-299.
    12. Peter J. Huckfeldt & Darius N. Lakdawalla & Tomas J. Philipson, 2012. "Economics of Obesity," Chapters,in: The Elgar Companion to Health Economics, Second Edition, chapter 7 Edward Elgar Publishing.
      • Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas J. Philipson, 2006. "Economics of Obesity," Chapters,in: The Elgar Companion to Health Economics, chapter 7 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    13. Cawley, John & Price, Joshua A., 2013. "A case study of a workplace wellness program that offers financial incentives for weight loss," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(5), pages 794-803.
    14. Augurzky, Boris & Bauer, Thomas K. & Reichert, Arndt R. & Schmidt, Christoph M. & Tauchmann, Harald, 2012. "Does Money Burn Fat? – Evidence from a Randomized Experiment," Ruhr Economic Papers 368, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health
    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General

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