The Long-Run Growth in Obesity as a Function of Technological Change

University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 78

33 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 1999

See all articles by Richard A. Posner

Richard A. Posner

University of Chicago Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Tomas Philipson

University of Chicago; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: May 1999

Abstract

This paper analyzes the forces contributing to the worldwide long-run rise in obesity and the role of public interventions in affecting its continued growth. A growth in obesity in a population must result from the growth of calorie consumption outpacing the growth of physical activity. Yet in developed countries, obesity has grown with modest rises in calorie consumption and with a substantial increase in both exercise and dieting. We consider the economic incentives that give rise to a growth in obesity by stimulating intake of calories at the same time as discouraging the expending of calories on physical activity. We argue that technological change provides a natural interpretation of the long-run growth in obesity, that it predicts that the effect of income on obesity changes sign with economic development, and that it implies that the growth in obesity may be self-limiting.

JEL Classification: I11, I12

Suggested Citation

Posner, Richard A. and Philipson, Tomas J., The Long-Run Growth in Obesity as a Function of Technological Change (May 1999). University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 78. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=167008 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.167008

Richard A. Posner (Contact Author)

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Tomas J. Philipson

University of Chicago ( email )

Graduate School of Business
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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