Are Restaurants Really Supersizing America?

American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Forthcoming

67 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2008 Last revised: 22 Jul 2010

Michael L. Anderson

U.C. Berkeley - Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics

David A. Matsa

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: May 2010

Abstract

While many researchers and policymakers infer from correlations between eating out and body weight that restaurants are a leading cause of obesity, a basic identification problem challenges these conclusions. We design a natural experiment using highways in rural areas to exploit exogenous variation in the effective price of restaurants and examine the impact on body mass. We find no causal link between restaurant consumption and obesity. Analysis of food-intake micro-data suggests that consumers offset calories from restaurant meals by eating less at other times. We conclude that regulation targeting restaurants is unlikely to reduce obesity but could decrease consumer welfare.

Keywords: economics of regulation, health production, obesity, fat tax

JEL Classification: D12, H25, I12, I18

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Michael L. and Matsa, David A., Are Restaurants Really Supersizing America? (May 2010). American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1079584

Michael L. Anderson

U.C. Berkeley - Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics ( email )

207 Giannini Hall, MC 3310
Berkeley, CA 94720-3310
United States

David A. Matsa (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-491-8337 (Phone)
847-491-5719 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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