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The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity

  • Currie, Janet
  • DellaVigna, Stefano
  • Moretti, Enrico
  • Pathania, Vikram

We investigate the health consequences of changes in the supply of fast food using the exact geographical location of fast food restaurants. Specifically, we ask how the supply of fast food affects the obesity rates of 3 million school children and the weight gain of over 1 million pregnant women. We find that among 9th grade children, a fast food restaurant within a tenth of a mile of a school is associated with at least a 5.2 percent increase in obesity rates. There is no discernable effect at .25 miles and at .5 miles. Among pregnant women, models with mother fixed effects indicate that a fast food restaurant within a half mile of her residence results in a 2.5 percent increase in the probability of gaining over 20 kilos. The effect is larger, but less precisely estimated at .1 miles. In contrast, the presence of non-fast food restaurants is uncorrelated with obesity and weight gain. Moreover, proximity to future fast food restaurants is uncorrelated with current obesity and weight gain, conditional on current proximity to fast food. The implied effects of fast-food on caloric intake are at least one order of magnitude smaller for mothers, which suggests that they are less constrained by travel costs than school children. Our results imply that policies restricting access to fast food near schools could have significant effects on obesity among school children, but similar policies restricting the availability of fast food in residential areas are unlikely to have large effects on adults.

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File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/47830
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Paper provided by American Association of Wine Economists in its series Working Papers with number 47830.

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Date of creation: Feb 2009
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Handle: RePEc:ags:aawewp:47830
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.wine-economics.org
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  1. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher, 2005. "Reading, Writing and Raisinets: Are School Finances Contributing to Children's Obesity?," NBER Working Papers 11177, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Inas Rashad & Michael Grossman & Shin-Yi Chou, 2006. "The Super Size of America: An Economic Estimation of Body Mass Index and Obesity in Adults," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 32(1), pages 133-148, Winter.
  3. John Cawley & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2006. "Beyond BMI: The Value of More Accurate Measures of Fatness and Obesity in Social Science Research," NBER Working Papers 12291, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. John Cawley & Feng Liu, 2007. "Maternal Employment and Childhood Obesity: A Search for Mechanisms in Time Use Data," NBER Working Papers 13600, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
  6. Patricia M. Anderson & Kristin F. Butcher & Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, 2007. "Childhood Disadvantage and Obesity: Is Nurture Trumping Nature?," NBER Working Papers 13479, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Sara Bleich & David Cutler & Christopher Murray & Alyce Adams, 2007. "Why Is The Developed World Obese?," NBER Working Papers 12954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Anderson, Patricia M. & Butcher, Kristin F. & Levine, Phillip B., 2003. "Maternal employment and overweight children," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 477-504, May.
  9. Michael L. Anderson & David A. Matsa, 2011. "Are Restaurants Really Supersizing America?," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 152-88, January.
  10. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2000. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," NBER Working Papers 7831, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
  12. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," NBER Working Papers 8946, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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