Impatience, Incentives, and Obesity
36 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2011 Last revised: 13 Jun 2011
Date Written: March 23, 2011
This paper explores the relationship between time preference, food prices, and body mass index (BMI). We present a model predicting that impatient individuals should both weigh more than patient individuals and experience sharper increases in weight in response to falling food prices. We then provide evidence to support these predictions using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth matched with local food prices from the Council for Community and Economic Research. Our findings suggest that the interaction of changing economic incentives with impatience can help to explain the shift to the right and thickening of the tails of the BMI distribution. Interestingly, we find no evidence of a relationship between time preference and weight loss attempts, suggesting that the observed effect on BMI represents rational inter-temporal substitution rather than self-control problems.
Keywords: Obesity, weight, body mass index, discount factor, discount rate, time preference, food prices
JEL Classification: I10, D9
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation