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

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  • Davide Dragone
  • Luca Savorelli

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Davide Dragone & Luca Savorelli, 2010. "Thinness and Obesity: A Model of Food Consumption, Health Concerns, and Social Pressure," STICERD - Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers Series 017, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:stieop:017
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    Cited by:

    1. Barbieri, Paolo Nicola, 2015. "Body Weight, Dieting and Obesity Traps," MPRA Paper 67671, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Federico Perali & Luca Piccoli & Knut R. Wangen, 2015. "An Extended Theory of Rational Addiction," DEA Working Papers 69, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Departament d'Economía Aplicada.
    3. Ralph Bradley & Colin Baker, 2013. "The Simultaneous Effects of Obesity, Insurance Choice, and Medical Visit Choice on Healthcare Costs," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring and Modeling Health Care Costs National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Caliendo, Marco & Gehrsitz, Markus, 2016. "Obesity and the labor market: A fresh look at the weight penalty," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, pages 209-225.
    5. Javier Rivas & Miguel Flores, 2011. "Cash Incentives and Unhealthy Food Consumption," Discussion Papers in Economics 11/47, Department of Economics, University of Leicester, revised Jan 2012.
    6. repec:kap:theord:v:83:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s11238-017-9625-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Anthony M Yezer & Stephen J Popick, 2017. "Climate Preferences, Obesity, and Unobserved Heterogeneity in Cities," The Review of Regional Studies, Southern Regional Science Association, vol. 47(3), pages 309-329, Fall.
    8. Barbieri, Paolo Nicola, 2015. "Social Distortion in Weight Perception: A Decomposition of the Obesity Epidemic," Working Papers in Economics 639, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    9. Barbieri, Paolo Nicola, 2016. "Weight loss, obesity traps and policy policies," MPRA Paper 71327, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Strulik, Holger, 2014. "A mass phenomenon: The social evolution of obesity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 113-125.
    11. Liu, Yaqin & Ferreira, Susana & Colson, Gregory & Wetzstein, Michael, 2013. "Obesity and Counseling," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 149947, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    12. Ryota Nakamura & Marc Suhrcke & Daniel John Zizzo, 2017. "A triple test for behavioral economics models and public health policy," Theory and Decision, Springer, pages 513-533.
    13. Davide, Dragone & Francesco, Manaresi & Luca, Savorelli, 2013. "Obesity and smoking: can we catch two birds with one tax?," SIRE Discussion Papers 2013-31, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
    14. Gomis-Porqueras, Pedro & Moslehi, Solmaz & Suen, Richard M.H., 2016. "The role of dietary choices and medical expenditures on health outcomes when health shocks are endogenous," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 13-25.
    15. Zeng, Di & Thomsen, Michael R. & Nayga, Rodolfo M. Jr., 2015. "Food Desert and Weight Outcome: Disentangling Confounding Mechanisms," 2016 Allied Social Science Association (ASSA) Annual Meeting, January 3-5, 2016, San Francisco, California 212813, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Body Weight; Diet; Obesity; Social Pressure; Underweight.;

    JEL classification:

    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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