The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination
This paper provides a theoretical and empirical examination of the long-run growth in weight over time. We argue that technological change has induced weight growth by making home- and market-production more sedentary and by lowering food prices through agricultural innovation. We consider how such technological change creates unexpected relationships among income, food prices, and weight. Using individual-level data from 1976 to 1994, we find that technology-based reductions in food prices and job-related exercise have had significant impacts on weight across time and populations. We find that about forty percent of the recent growth in weight seems to be due to innovation in agricultural production passed through as reduced food prices, while sixty percent may be due to demand factors such as increased productivity in home- or market production being associated with declining physical activity.
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