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Obesity under affluence varies by welfare regimes: the effect of fast food, insecurity, and inequality

  • Avner Offer

    (All Souls College, University of Oxford, OX1 4AL, UK)

  • Rachel Pechey

    (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, OX2 6PE, UK)

  • Stanley Ulijaszek

    (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, OX2 6PE, UK)

Among affluent countries, those with market-liberal welfare regimes (which are also English-speaking) tend to have the highest prevalence of obesity. The impact of cheap, accessible high-energy food is often invoked in explanation. An alternative approach is that overeating is a response to stress, and that competition, uncertainty and inequality make market-liberal societies more stressful. This ecological regression meta-study pools 96 body-weight surveys from 11 countries c. 1994-2004. The fast-food ‘shock’ impact is found to work most strongly in market liberal countries. Economic insecurity, measured in several different ways, was almost twice as powerful, while the impact of inequality was weak, and went in the opposite direction.

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Paper provided by Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford in its series Oxford University Economic and Social History Series with number _082.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: 15 Jul 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_082
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.nuff.ox.ac.uk/economics/

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  1. Andrea Brandolini & Anthony B. Atkinson, 2001. "Promise and Pitfalls in the Use of "Secondary" Data-Sets: Income Inequality in OECD Countries As a Case Study," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 39(3), pages 771-799, September.
  2. 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.
  3. Smith Trenton G. & Stoddard Christiana & Barnes Michael G, 2009. "Why the Poor Get Fat: Weight Gain and Economic Insecurity," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 12(2), pages 1-31, June.
  4. Avner Offer, 2008. "British Manual Workers: From Producers to Consumers, c. 1950–2000," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _074, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  5. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2007. "Obesity, Unhappiness, and The Challenge of Affluence: Theory and Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 2717, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Andrew J. Oswald & Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2007. "Review 1: Obesity, Unhappiness, and The Challenge of Affluence: Theory and Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(521), pages 441-454, 06.
  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. Tomas J. Philipson & Richard A. Posner, 2008. "Is the Obesity Epidemic a Public Health Problem? A Review of Zoltan J. Acs and Alan Lyles's Obesity, Business and Public Policy," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(4), pages 974-82, December.
  9. Trenton Smith, 2009. "Reconciling psychology with economics: Obesity, behavioral biology, and rational overeating," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 249-282, December.
  10. Ulijaszek, Stanley J., 2007. "Frameworks of population obesity and the use of cultural consensus modeling in the study of environments contributing to obesity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 443-457, December.
  11. Darius Lakdawalla & Tomas Philipson & Jay Bhattacharya, 2005. "Welfare-Enhancing Technological Change and the Growth of Obesity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(2), pages 253-257, May.
  12. Lars Osberg & Andrew Sharpe, 2010. "The Index of Economic Well-Being," Challenge, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., vol. 53(4), pages 25-42, July.
  13. Heather Scott-Marshall, 2010. "The Social Patterning of Work-Related Insecurity and its Health Consequences," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 96(2), pages 313-337, April.
  14. Offer, Avner, 2007. "The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199216628, March.
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