American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Forthcoming
67 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2008 Last revised: 22 Jul 2010
Date Written: May 2010
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: 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