Social dynamics of obesity
In order to explain the substantial recent increases in obesity rates in the United States, we consider the effect of falling food prices in the context of a model involving endogenous body weight norms and an explicit, empirically grounded description of human metabolism. Unlike previous representative agent models of price-induced gains in average weight, our model, by including metabolic heterogeneity, is able to capture changes in additional features of the distribution, such as the dramatic growth in upper-quartile weights that are not readily inferred from the representative agent setting. We calibrate an analytical choice model to American women in the 30-to-60-year-old age bracket and compare the model’s equilibrium weight distributions to data from NHANES surveys spanning (intermittently) the period from 1976 through 2000. The model predicts increases in average weight and obesity rates with considerable accuracy and captures a considerable portion of the relative growth in upperquantile weights. The differential response to price declines across the distribution depends on the fact that human basal metabolism (or resting calorie expenditure) is increasing and yet concave in body weight, and therefore food price effects on weight tend to be larger for individuals who are heavier initially. The lagged adjustment of weight norms helps to explain recent observations that obesity rates have continued to rise since the mid 1990s, despite an apparent leveling off of price declines. The predicted increase in body weight aspirations agrees with an observed trend in self-reported desired weights, and it defies the conventional wisdom that thinness has been a growing obsession among American women in recent decades.
|Date of creation:||2006|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: 600 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02210|
Web page: http://www.bos.frb.org/
More information through EDIRC
|Order Information:|| Email: |
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1993.
"The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth,"
NBER Working Papers
4521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Komlos, John & Baur, Marieluise, 2003.
"From the Tallest to (One of) the Fattest: The Enigmatic Fate of the American Population in the 20th Century,"
Discussion Papers in Economics
76, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
- Komlos, John & Baur, Marieluise, 2004. "From the tallest to (one of) the fattest: the enigmatic fate of the American population in the 20th century," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 57-74, March.
- John Komlos & Marieluise Baur, 2003. "From the Tallest to (One of) the Fattest: The Enigmatic Fate of the American Population in the 20th Century," CESifo Working Paper Series 1028, CESifo Group Munich.
- Edward L. Glaeser & Jose Scheinkman, 2000.
NBER Working Papers
8053, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Edward L. Glaeser & Jose A. Scheinkman, 2001. "Non-Market Interactions," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1914, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Hamermesh, Daniel S & Biddle, Jeff E, 1994.
"Beauty and the Labor Market,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1174-94, December.
- Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2006. "Measuring trends in leisure," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
- Tomas J. Philipson & Richard A. Posner, 1999.
"The Long-Run Growth in Obesity as a Function of Technological Change,"
9912, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
- Tomas J. Philipson & Richard A. Posner, 1999. "The Long-Run Growth in Obesity as a Function of Technological Change," NBER Working Papers 7423, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Shin-Yi Chou & Michael Grossman & Henry Saffer, 2002.
"An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System,"
NBER Working Papers
9247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- 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.
- Battaglini, Marco & Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2002.
"Self Control in Peer Groups,"
CEPR Discussion Papers
3149, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
- Battaglini, Marco & Bénabou, Roland & Tirole, Jean, 2003. "Self-Control in Peer Groups," IDEI Working Papers 189, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
- Benabou, R. & Battaglini, M., 2001. "Self-Control in peer Groups," Papers 217, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
- David Cutler & Edward Glaeser & Jesse Shapiro, 2003.
"Why Have Americans Become More Obese?,"
NBER Working Papers
9446, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1994, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Levy, Amnon, 2002. "Rational eating: can it lead to overweightness or underweightness?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(5), pages 887-899, September.
- Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002.
"The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination,"
0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
- 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.
- Putnam, Judy & Allshouse, Jane & Kantor, Linda Scott, 2002. "U.S. Per Capita Food Supply Trends: More Calories, Refined Carbohydrates, and Fats," Food Review: The Magazine of Food Economics, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, vol. 25(3).
- William A. Brock & Steven N. Durlauf, 2001.
"Discrete Choice with Social Interactions,"
Review of Economic Studies,
Oxford University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 235-260.
- Christine Himes, 2000. "Obesity, disease, and functional limitation in later life," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 37(1), pages 73-82, February.
- Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
- Jay Bhattacharya & Neeraj Sood, 2005. "Health Insurance and the Obesity Externality," NBER Working Papers 11529, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fip:fedbpp:06-5. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Catherine Spozio)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.