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Contingent Valuation Analysis of Willingness to Pay To Reduce Childhood Obesity

  • John Cawley

Several recent surveys have asked Americans whether they support policies to reduce childhood obesity. There is reason for skepticism of such surveys because people are not confronted with the tax costs of such policies when they are asked whether they support them. This paper uses contingent valuation (CV), a method frequently used to estimate people's willingness to pay (WTP) for goods or services not transacted in markets, applied to unique survey data from New York State to estimate the willingness to pay to reduce childhood obesity. The willingness to pay data correlate in predictable ways with respondent characteristics. The mean WTP for a 50% reduction in childhood obesity is $46.41 (95% CI: $33.45, $59.15), which implies a total WTP by New York State residents of $690.6 million (95% CI: $497.7, $880.15), which is less than that implied by previous surveys that did not use CV methods but greater than current spending on policies to reduce childhood obesity and greater than the estimated savings in external costs. The findings provide policymakers with useful information about taxpayers' support for, and preferred budget for, anti-obesity policies.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12510.

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Date of creation: Sep 2006
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Publication status: published as Cawley, John. “Contingent Valuation Analysis of Willingness to Pay to Reduce Childhood Obesity.” Economics and Human Biology, July 2008, 6(2): 281-292.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12510
Note: HC HE
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  1. John Cawley & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2006. "Beyond BMI: The Value of More Accurate Measures of Fatness and Obesity in Social Science Research," NBER Working Papers 12291, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Richard D. Smith, 2003. "Construction of the contingent valuation market in health care:a critical assessment," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(8), pages 609-628.
  3. Hanemann, W Michael, 1991. "Willingness to Pay and Willingness to Accept: How Much Can They Differ?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(3), pages 635-47, June.
  4. Watson, Verity & Ryan, Mandy, 2007. "Exploring preference anomalies in double bounded contingent valuation," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 463-482, May.
  5. M. Ruth & K. Donaghy & P. Kirshen, 2006. "Introduction," Chapters, in: Regional Climate Change and Variability, chapter 1 Edward Elgar.
  6. John C. Whitehead, 2000. "“A Practitioner’s Primer on Contingent Valuation,”," Working Papers 0008, East Carolina University, Department of Economics.
  7. Eric Johnson & Melayne Morgan McInnes & Judith A. Shinogle, 2006. "What is the Economic Cost of Overweight Children?," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 32(1), pages 171-187, Winter.
  8. Carson, Richard T. & Hanemann, W. Michael, 2006. "Contingent Valuation," Handbook of Environmental Economics, in: K. G. Mäler & J. R. Vincent (ed.), Handbook of Environmental Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 17, pages 821-936 Elsevier.
  9. Laura O. Taylor & Ronald G. Cummings, 1999. "Unbiased Value Estimates for Environmental Goods: A Cheap Talk Design for the Contingent Valuation Method," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 649-665, June.
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