Weight Loss Nudges: Market Test or Government Guess?

36 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2018

See all articles by Michael L. Marlow

Michael L. Marlow

California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo

Date Written: 09/03/2014


Obesity is a major health concern, given its association with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, stroke, heart disease, certain cancers, and arthritis. Rising obesity prevalence has led public health experts to propose solutions to what is frequently called an obesity epidemic. Many behavioral economists believe that well-designed "nudges" can steer individuals toward decisions that improve their welfare. This paper examines the effectiveness of nudges designed to steer individuals toward better eating behaviors as a means of lowering population weight. It presents basics of nudge theory, followed by criticisms of that theory. It explains various imperfections that all choice architects?whether in governments or in markets?must face, concluding that nudges are a rather blunt instrument for reducing population weight. Discussion of how nudging by governments differs from nudging by markets leads to the conclusion that market nudging is the more promising avenue of the two for helping citizens lose weight.

Suggested Citation

Marlow, Michael L., Weight Loss Nudges: Market Test or Government Guess? (09/03/2014). MERCATUS WORKING PAPER, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3191373 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3191373

Michael L. Marlow (Contact Author)

California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo ( email )

San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
United States

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