Diabetes and Diet: Purchasing Behavior Change in Response to Health Information

American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Forthcoming

Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Research Paper No. 2018-40

47 Pages Posted: 7 Aug 2018

Date Written: July 18, 2018

Abstract

Individuals with obesity and related conditions are often reluctant to change their diet. Evaluating the details of this reluctance is hampered by limited data. I use household scanner data to estimate food purchase response to a diagnosis of diabetes. I use a machine learning approach to infer diagnosis from purchases of diabetes-related products. On average, households show significant, but relatively small, calorie reductions. These reductions are concentrated in unhealthy foods, suggesting they reflect real efforts to improve diet. There is some heterogeneity in calorie changes across households, although this heterogeneity is not well predicted by demographics or baseline diet, despite large correlations between these factors and diagnosis. I suggest a theory of behavior change which may explain the limited overall change and the fact that heterogeneity is not predictable.

Suggested Citation

Oster, Emily, Diabetes and Diet: Purchasing Behavior Change in Response to Health Information (July 18, 2018). American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Forthcoming; Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Research Paper No. 2018-40. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3216116

Emily Oster (Contact Author)

Brown University

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