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Effects of U.S. Public Agricultural R&D on U.S. Obesity and its Social Costs

Author

Listed:
  • Alston, Julian M.
  • Okrent, Abigail M.
  • Parks, Joanna

Abstract

How much has food abundance, attributable to U.S. public agricultural R&D, contributed to the high and rising U.S. obesity rates? In this paper we investigate the effects of public investment in agricultural R&D on food prices, per capita calorie consumption, adult body weight, obesity, public health-care expenditures related to obesity, and social welfare. First we use an econometric model to estimate the average effect of an incremental investment in agricultural R&D on the farm prices of ten categories of farm commodities. Next, we use the econometric results in a simulation model to estimate the implied changes in prices and quantities consumed of nine categories of food for given changes in research expenditures. Finally, we estimate the corresponding changes in social welfare, including both the traditional measures of changes in economic surplus in markets for food and farm commodities, and changes in public health-care expenditures associated with the predicted changes in food consumption and hence obesity. We find that a 10 percent increase in the stream of annual U.S. public investment in agricultural R&D in the latter half of the 20th century would have caused a very modest increase in average daily calorie consumption of American adults, resulting in very small increases in social costs of obesity. On the other hand, such an increase in spending would have generated very substantial net national benefits given the very large benefit-cost ratios for agricultural R&D.

Suggested Citation

  • Alston, Julian M. & Okrent, Abigail M. & Parks, Joanna, 2013. "Effects of U.S. Public Agricultural R&D on U.S. Obesity and its Social Costs," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 149796, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea13:149796
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Julian M. Alston & Matthew A. Andersen & Jennifer S. James & Philip G. Pardey, 2011. "The Economic Returns to U.S. Public Agricultural Research," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1257-1277.
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    3. Okrent, Abigail M. & Alston, Julian M., 2011. "Demand for Food in the United States: A Review of Literature, Evaluation of Previous Estimates, and Presentation of New Estimates of Demand," Monographs, University of California, Davis, Giannini Foundation, number 251908.
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    17. Alston, Julian M. & Sumner, Daniel A. & Vosti, Stephen A., 2008. "Farm subsidies and obesity in the United States: National evidence and international comparisons," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 470-479, December.
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    19. Okrent, Abigail M. & Alston, Julian M., 2010. "The Effects of Farm Commodity Policies and Retail Food Policies on Obesity and Economic Welfare in the United States," 2010 Annual Meeting, July 25-27, 2010, Denver, Colorado 61675, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
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    1. repec:oup:apecpp:v:39:y:2017:i:3:p:387-406. is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Alston, Julian M. & Pardey, Philip G., 2014. "Agricultural R&D, Food Prices, Poverty and Malnutrition Redux," Staff Papers 162413, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.

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