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An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

  • Shin-Yi Chou
  • Michael Grossman
  • Henry Saffer

Since the late 1970s, the number of obese adults in the United States has grown by over 50 percent. This paper examines the factors that may be responsible for this rapidly increasing prevalence rate. To study the determinants of adult obesity and related outcomes, we employ micro-level data from the 1984-1999 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. These repeated cross sections are augmented with state level measures pertaining to the per capita number of fast- food restaurants, the per capita number of full-service restaurants, the price of a meal in each type of restaurant, the price of food consumed at home, the price of cigarettes, clean indoor air laws, and hours of work per week and hourly wage rates by age, gender, race, years of formal schooling completed, and marital status. Our main results are that these variables have the expected effects on obesity and explain a substantial amount of its trend. These findings control for individual-level measures of household income, years of formal schooling completed, and marital status.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9247.

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Date of creation: Oct 2002
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Publication status: published as 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.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9247
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  1. David Cutler & Edward Glaeser & Jesse Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," NBER Working Papers 9446, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. William N. Evans & Matthew C. Farrelly & Edward Montgomery, 1996. "Do Workplace Smoking Bans Reduce Smoking?," NBER Working Papers 5567, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. John M. Abowd & Orley C. Ashenfelter, 1981. "Anticipated Unemployment, Temporary Layoffs, and Compensating Wage Differentials," NBER Chapters, in: Studies in Labor Markets, pages 141-170 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Trejo, Stephen J, 1991. "The Effects of Overtime Pay Regulation on Worker Compensation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 719-40, September.
  7. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1993. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," NBER Working Papers 4521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Dora L. Costa & Richard H. Steckel, 1995. "Long-Term Trends in Health, Welfare, and Economic Growth in the United States," NBER Historical Working Papers 0076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. John Cawley, 2000. "Body Weight and Women's Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 7841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Naik, Narayan Y & Moore, Michael J, 1996. "Habit Formation and Intertemporal Substitution in Individual Food Consumption," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 78(2), pages 321-28, May.
  13. Tomas Philipson, 2001. "The world-wide growth in obesity: an economic research agenda," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(1), pages 1-7.
  14. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
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