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

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  • Shin-Yi Chou
  • Michael Grossman
  • Henry Saffer

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9247
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dora Costa & Richard H. Steckel, 1997. "Long-Term Trends in Health, Welfare, and Economic Growth in the United States," NBER Chapters,in: Health and Welfare during Industrialization, pages 47-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson, 2002. "The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination," Working Papers 0203, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
    3. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1996. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(2), pages 304-330.
    4. 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.
    5. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
    6. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2000. "Are Recessions Good for Your Health?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(2), pages 617-650.
    7. 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.
    8. Trejo, Stephen J, 1991. "The Effects of Overtime Pay Regulation on Worker Compensation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 719-740, September.
    9. John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
    10. 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 321-328, May.
    11. Matthew C. Farrelly & William N. Evans & Edward Montgomery, 1999. "Do Workplace Smoking Bans Reduce Smoking?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 728-747, September.
    12. Tomas J. Philipson & Richard A. Posner, 1999. "The Long-Run Growth in Obesity as a Function of Technological Change," Working Papers 9912, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
    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. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1997:87:5:747-754_5 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. John Cawley, 2000. "Body Weight and Women's Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 7841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health

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