Can Changing Economic Factors Explain the Rise in Obesity

63 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2015

See all articles by Charles Courtemanche

Charles Courtemanche

Georgia State University - Andrew Young School of Policy Studies

Joshua C. Pinkston

University of Louisville

Christopher J. Ruhm

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

George Wehby

University of Iowa

Date Written: January 2015

Abstract

A growing literature examines the effects of economic variables on obesity, typically focusing on only one or a few factors at a time. We build a more comprehensive economic model of body weight, combining the 1990-2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System with 27 statelevel variables related to general economic conditions, labor supply, and the monetary or time costs of calorie intake, physical activity, and cigarette smoking. Controlling for demographic characteristics and state and year fixed effects, changes in these economic variables collectively explain 37% of the rise in BMI, 43% of the rise in obesity, and 59% of the rise in class II/III obesity. Quantile regressions also point to large effects among the heaviest individuals, with half the rise in the 90th percentile of BMI explained by economic factors. Variables related to calorie intake – particularly restaurant and supercenter/warehouse club densities – are the primary drivers of the results.

Keywords: BMI, obesity, restaurant, supercenter, food price, economic factors

JEL Classification: I12

Suggested Citation

Courtemanche, Charles and Pinkston, Joshua C. and Ruhm, Christopher J. and Wehby, George, Can Changing Economic Factors Explain the Rise in Obesity (January 2015). Andrew Young School of Policy Studies Research Paper Series No. 15-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2567419 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2567419

Charles Courtemanche (Contact Author)

Georgia State University - Andrew Young School of Policy Studies ( email )

P.O. Box 3992
Atlanta, GA 30302-3992
United States
404-413-0082 (Phone)

Joshua C. Pinkston

University of Louisville ( email )

Christopher J. Ruhm

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy ( email )

235 McCormick Rd.
P.O. Box 400893
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4893
United States
434-924-7581 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://batten.virginia.edu/cruhm.html

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

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

George Wehby

University of Iowa ( email )

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