The Rise of Obesity in Europe: An Economic Perspective

46 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2009

See all articles by Giorgio Brunello

Giorgio Brunello

University of Padova - Department of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Pierre-Carl Michaud

University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) - Department of Economics; Centre Interuniversitaire sur le Risque, les Politiques Economiques et l'Emploi (CIRPÉE); RAND Corporation, Labor and Population; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Netspar

Anna Sanz-de-Galdeano

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Abstract

Obesity in Europe is rising. This paper investigates the economic rationales for public intervention to control obesity. We present new empirical evidence showing that family background is related to obesity among young European adults. This evidence provides a strong basis for intervention on equity grounds, particularly targeted towards children. The case for intervention on efficiency grounds is less clear-cut and in most cases the evidence is relatively weak. We find insufficient evidence that information deficiencies are important, as the majority of Europeans appear to be aware of the bad consequences of obesity on health. We also find that the potential health insurance externality -- non-obese effectively subsidizing obese individuals -- is small. In support of policy intervention, we show that there are product and labour market imperfections. Obese employees earn less than the non-obese. We also find that there is a remarkably high proportion of individuals with self-control problems, who fail to stick to their self-declared weight-related plans. Regulations that affect fast food advertisements and the location and access to fast food vending machines and establishments may help these individuals in controlling their weight.

Suggested Citation

Brunello, Giorgio and Michaud, Pierre-Carl and Sanz De Galdeano, Anna, The Rise of Obesity in Europe: An Economic Perspective. Economic Policy, Vol. 24, Issue 59, pp. 551-596, July 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1425810 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0327.2009.00226.x

Giorgio Brunello (Contact Author)

University of Padova - Department of Economics ( email )

via Del Santo 33
35121 Padova
Italy
+39 049 827 4223 (Phone)
+39 049 827 4221 (Fax)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Pierre-Carl Michaud

University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 8888, Downtown Station
Montreal, Quebec H3C 3P8
Canada

Centre Interuniversitaire sur le Risque, les Politiques Economiques et l'Emploi (CIRPÉE) ( email )

Pavillon De Sève
Ste-Foy, Quebec G1K 7P4
Canada

RAND Corporation, Labor and Population ( email )

Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Netspar ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

Anna Sanz De Galdeano

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona ( email )

Edifici B - Campus Bellaterra
Barcelona, 08193
Spain

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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