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The Role Of Uncertainty On U.S. Obesity: An Application Of Control Theory


  • Pedro Gomis-Porqueras


  • Fidel Gonzalez


This paper considers the problem of a consumer that cares about her health, which we proxy by deviations from current weight to ideal weight, and derives utility from eating and disutility from performing physical activity while taking into account the uncertainty associated with calorie consumption and physical activity. Using U.S. data, we find that uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of physical activity produces a larger cautionary response. Moreover, it is harder to learn and is more important to the agent than the uncertainty regarding the calorie content of food. These results can help policymakers design more cost effective policies.

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  • Pedro Gomis-Porqueras & Fidel Gonzalez, 2009. "The Role Of Uncertainty On U.S. Obesity: An Application Of Control Theory," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2009-506, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:acb:cbeeco:2009-506

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
    2. Jayachandran N. Variyam & John Cawley, 2006. "Nutrition Labels and Obesity," NBER Working Papers 11956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Pedro Gomis-Porqueras & Adrian Peralta-Alva, 2008. "A macroeconomic analysis of obesity," Working Papers 2008-017, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    4. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson & Jay Bhattacharya, 2005. "Welfare-Enhancing Technological Change and the Growth of Obesity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 253-257, May.
    5. Burke & Heiland, 2007. "Social Dynamics Of Obesity," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 45(3), pages 571-591, July.
    6. Pere Gomis-Porqueras & Adrian Peralta-Alva, 2005. "A Macroeconomic Analysis of Obesity in the U.S," Working Papers 0606, University of Miami, Department of Economics, revised 30 Aug 2007.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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