International Evidence on Obesity: The Interaction Between Legal Heritage and Motor Vehicle Dependence
37 Pages Posted: 25 May 2011
Date Written: November 11, 2010
We find a significant positive link between motor vehicle reliance and obesity in OECD countries. Surprisingly this association holds only for countries with a common law rather than a civil law heritage. These relations hold whether we examine trend data and simple correlations, or conduct cross-section or panel data regression analysis. An increase of 100 motor vehicles per thousand residents is associated with a six percentage point increase in obesity in common law countries with a much smaller and insignificant impact in civil law countries. Motor vehicle dependence is an important link in the growth of obesity in countries with a tradition of common law where individual liberty is encouraged; the link is statistically non-existent in countries with a civil law background where the rights of the individual tend to be circumscribed by the power of the state. This suggests that efforts to discourage the over-reliance on the automobile would have the greatest obesity reducing impact precisely in those countries where it is most difficult, in terms of legal heritage, to implement such measures.
Keywords: Obesity, Motor Vehicles, Common Law, OECD
JEL Classification: I12, K4, P5
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation