Obesity and Self Control: Evidence from Food Purchase Data

69 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2018 Last revised: 6 May 2019

See all articles by Ying Bao

Ying Bao

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Matthew Osborne

University of Toronto at Mississauga - Department of Management

Emily Yucai Wang

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Edward C. Jaenicke

College of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology

Date Written: May 3, 2019

Abstract

In this paper, we examine the relationship between obesity and food purchase behavior using a novel and unique dataset that links individual-level scanner data on food purchases to survey data containing questions about an individual's obesity status. We find that obese individuals have higher purchase shares of unhealthy goods, are more likely to purchase products offered in checkout lanes that exploit consumer temptation, and are significantly more sensitive to price changes in product categories that are both unhealthy and tempting. We find no differences in price sensitivity across obesity levels in comparable product categories that would not be considered tempting. Moreover, we find that the relationship between price sensitivity and BMI is significantly smaller for individuals who have recently lost weight. Our empirical results are consistent with the model of self-control developed by Gul and Pesendorfer (2001) and Benabou and Pycia (2002). We do not find systematic support for the idea that more obese individuals are more myopic, in contrast to earlier research. We also do not find systematic evidence that obesity is correlated with worse information about the consequences of unhealthy eating.

Keywords: obesity, self-control, scanner data, marketing and health

Suggested Citation

Bao, Ying and Osborne, Matthew and Wang, Emily Yucai and Jaenicke, Edward C., Obesity and Self Control: Evidence from Food Purchase Data (May 3, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3260896 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3260896

Ying Bao

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

Matthew Osborne (Contact Author)

University of Toronto at Mississauga - Department of Management ( email )


Canada

Emily Yucai Wang

University of Massachusetts, Amherst ( email )

80 Campus Center Way
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Amherst, MA 01003
United States
4135455741 (Phone)

Edward C. Jaenicke

College of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology ( email )

University Park, PA 16802-3306
United States

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