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A macroeconomic analysis of obesity

  • Pere Gomis-Porqueras
  • Adrian Peralta-Alva

This paper tries to understand the underlying causes of the rapid increase in obesity rates over recent decades. In particular, we propose a dynamic general equilibrium model to derive the quantitative implications of a decline in the relative (monetary and time) cost of food prepared away from home on the caloric intake of the average American adult over the last forty years. Two channels that lower this relative cost are considered. First, productivity improvements in the production of food prepared away from home. We and that this channel is qualitatively consistent with expenditure trends in food items, but falls short of accounting for the magnitude of the observed changes. We then consider actual declines in income taxes and in the gender wage gap, which increase the cost of preparing food at home from scratch. Our model accounts for three quarters of the observed changes in calorie consumption, and is consistent with trends in aggregate food expenditures, time use, and key macroeconomic variables. Our results indicate that changes in the relative cost of food prepared away from home play an important role in our understanding of the increased weight of the American population during the last 40 years.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in its series Working Papers with number 2008-017.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlwp:2008-017
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  1. Albanesi, Stefania & Olivetti, Claudia, 2005. "Home Production, Market Production and the Gender Wage Gap: Incentives and Expectations," CEPR Discussion Papers 4984, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  2. Anna Sanz De Galdeano, 2005. "The Obesity Epidemic in Europe," CSEF Working Papers 143, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
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  4. 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.
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  9. Fumio Hayashi, 1981. "Tobin's Marginal q and Average a : A Neoclassical Interpretation," Discussion Papers 457, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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  11. 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.
  12. Lombard, Karen V, 1999. "Women's Rising Market Opportunities and Increased Labor Force Participation," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 37(2), pages 195-212, April.
  13. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2006. "Measuring trends in leisure," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  14. Smith, Trenton G, 2002. "Obesity and Nature's Thumbprint: How Modern Waistlines Can Inform Economic Theory," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt31g1m028, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  15. Avner Offer, 1998. "Epidemics of Abundance: Overeating and Slimming in the USA and Britain since the 1950s," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _025, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  16. Patrick J. Byrne & Oral Capps & Atanu Saha, 1996. "Analysis of Food-Away-from-Home Expenditure Patterns for U.S. Households, 1982–89," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(3), pages 614-627.
  17. Francine D. Blau, 1997. "Trends in the Well-Being of American Women, 1970-1995," NBER Working Papers 6206, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Larry E. Jones & Rodolfo E. Manuelli & Ellen R. McGrattan, 2003. "Why are married women working so much?," Staff Report 317, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
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