Information, Choice, and Obesity: Measuring the Impact of the New York City Calorie Labeling Mandate on Obesity
The New York City Calorie Labeling Mandate of 2008 required fast food restaurants to post calorie information for all standardized items. We estimate the impact of the mandate on the rate of obesity using data from the Selected Metropolitan/Metropolitan Area Risk Trends of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (SMART-BRFSS) from 2004 to 2010. We show that the mandate plausibly reduced the obesity rate by 2.5 percentage points - a 12% decline. Our results are robust to a variety of sensitivity checks and strengthened by various placebo tests. Using data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey and the American Time Use Survey, we show that our obesity result was not driven by changes in fast food frequency or expenditure but may have been driven by a large increase in the extensive margin of physical activity.
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