The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination

43 Pages Posted: 17 May 2002 Last revised: 30 Sep 2002

See all articles by Darius N. Lakdawalla

Darius N. Lakdawalla

University of Southern California - Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics; RAND Corporation; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Tomas Philipson

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

Date Written: May 2002

Abstract

This paper provides a theoretical and empirical examination of the long-run growth in weight over time. We argue that technological change has induced weight growth by making home- and market-production more sedentary and by lowering food prices through agricultural innovation. We analyze how such technological change leads to unexpected relationships among income, food prices, and weight. Using individual-level data from 1976 to 1994, we then find that such technology-based reductions in food prices and job-related exercise have had significant impacts on weight across time and populations. In particular, we find that about forty percent of the recent growth in weight seems to be due to agricultural innovation that has lowered food prices, while sixty percent may be due to demand factors such as declining physical activity from technological changes in home and market production.

Suggested Citation

Lakdawalla, Darius N. and Philipson, Tomas J., The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination (May 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w8946. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=312659

Darius N. Lakdawalla (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics ( email )

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3333
United States

RAND Corporation ( email )

P.O. Box 2138
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Tomas J. Philipson

University of Chicago ( email )

Graduate School of Business
1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, 60637

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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