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

35 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2000 Last revised: 19 Sep 2014

See all articles by Tomas Philipson

Tomas Philipson

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

Richard A. Posner

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

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: November 1999

Abstract

This paper analyzes the factors contributing to the worldwide long-run rise in obesity and the effects of public interventions on its continued growth. The growth of obesity in a population results from an increase in calorie consumption relative to physical activity. Yet in developed countries, obesity has grown with modest rises in calorie consumption and with a substantial increase in both dieting and recreational exercise. We consider the economic incentives that give rise to a growth in obesity by stimulating intake of calories while discouraging the expending of calories on physical activity. We argue that technological change provides a natural interpretation of the long-run growth in obesity despite a rise in dieting and exercise, that it predicts that the effect of income on obesity falls with economic development, and that it implies that the growth in obesity may be self-limiting.

Suggested Citation

Philipson, Tomas J. and Posner, Richard A., The Long-Run Growth in Obesity as a Function of Technological Change (November 1999). NBER Working Paper No. w7423. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=227586

Tomas J. Philipson (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

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Richard A. Posner

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

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