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The Causal Link Between Financial Incentives and Weight Loss – An Evidence-based Survey of the Literature

  • Alfredo R. Paloyo
  • Arndt Rüdiger Reichert


  • Holger Reinermann
  • Harald Tauchmann

Obesity and overweight are linked to diseases that cost society a significant amount of resources. While behavior modification can reduce the problem, instigating such lifestyle changes is an uneasy task. One potential way to reduce the problem is through the use of financial incentives. In this survey, we review the available evidence with a significant emphasis on studies that yield credible estimates of the effect of financial incentives on weight loss. We find that the scientific literature on the subject has not yet satisfactorily settled whether such a mechanism is effective at eliciting the desired behavioral and health outcomes. We therefore advocate a rigorous large-scale randomized experiment to provide reliable estimates of the effect.

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Paper provided by Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen in its series Ruhr Economic Papers with number 0290.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:rwi:repape:0290
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  1. Imbens, Guido W. & Wooldridge, Jeffrey M., 2008. "Recent Developments in the Econometrics of Program Evaluation," IZA Discussion Papers 3640, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Ikeda, Shinsuke & Kang, Myong-Il & Ohtake, Fumio, 2010. "Hyperbolic discounting, the sign effect, and the body mass index," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 268-284, March.
  3. 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.
  4. Franco Sassi, 2010. "Obesity and the Economics of Prevention," Books, Edward Elgar, number 14244, April.
  5. Jay Bhattacharya & Neeraj Sood, 2011. "Who Pays for Obesity?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 139-58, Winter.
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