'Rational Overeating' in a Feast-or-Famine World: Economic Insecurity and the Obesity Epidemic

30 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2017

See all articles by Trenton G. Smith

Trenton G. Smith

University of Otago

Steven Stillman

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Stuart Craig

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School

Abstract

Obesity rates have risen dramatically in the US since the 1980s, but well-identified studies have struggled to explain the magnitude of the observed changes. In this paper, we estimate the causal impact of economic insecurity on obesity rates. Specifically, we construct a synthetic panel of demographic groups over the period 1988 to 2012 by combining the newly developed Economic Security Index (ESI) with data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). According to our estimates, increased economic insecurity over this time period explains 50% of the overall population-level increase in obesity.

Keywords: obesity, economic insecurity, economic security index

JEL Classification: D10, I12, I18, J60

Suggested Citation

Smith, Trenton G. and Stillman, Steven and Craig, Stuart, 'Rational Overeating' in a Feast-or-Famine World: Economic Insecurity and the Obesity Epidemic. IZA Discussion Paper No. 10954, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3029825

Trenton G. Smith (Contact Author)

University of Otago ( email )

PO Box 56
Dunedin
New Zealand

HOME PAGE: http://www.business.otago.ac.nz/econ/staff/smith.html

Steven Stillman

Free University of Bozen-Bolzano ( email )

Via Sernesi 1
39100 Bozen-Bolzano (BZ), Bozen 39100
Italy

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

Stuart Craig

University of Pennsylvania - The Wharton School ( email )

3641 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6365
United States

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