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Thinness and Obesity: A Model of Food Consumption, Health Concerns, and Social Pressure

  • Davide Dragone
  • Luca Savorelli

The increasing concern of the policy maker about eating behavior has focused on thespread of obesity and on the evidence of a consistent number of individuals dietingdespite being underweight. As the latter behavior is often attributed to the socialpressure to be thin, some governments have already taken actions to ban ultra-thinideals and testimonials. Assuming that people are heterogeneous in their healthyweights, but are exposed to the same ideal body weight, this paper proposes atheoretical framework to assess whether increasing the ideal body weight is sociallydesirable, both from a welfare and from a health point of view. If being overweightis the average condition and the ideal body weight is thin, increasing the ideal bodyweight may increase welfare by reducing social pressure. By contrast, health is onaverage reduced, since people depart even further from their healthy weight. Giventhat in the US and in Europe people are on average overweight, we conclude thatthese policies, even when are welfare improving, may foster the obesity epidemic.

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File URL: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/eopp/eopp17.pdf
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Paper provided by Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE in its series STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series with number 017.

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Date of creation: Jun 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cep:stieop:017
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/default.asp

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