Hand-to-Mouth Consumption and Calorie Consciousness: Consequences for Junk-Food Taxation

48 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2019

See all articles by Nathalie Mathieu-Bolh

Nathalie Mathieu-Bolh

University of Vermont, Economics Department

Date Written: July 20, 2019


Junk-food taxes have had mixed effects on obesity and junk-food consumption. We build a theoretical model to explain those empirical results and better understand how to address the obesity crisis. In our framework, hand-to-mouth consumer's make an intertemporal choice between food consumption and weight loss. Their choice depends on calorie consciousness, which is determined by relative prices and educational attainment. Thus, a junk-food tax modifies consumer's intertemporal choices both through their budget constraint and calorie consciousness. As a result, the effect of the tax on overweight reflects competing income, intertemporal substitution, and calorie consciousness effects. The model explains empirical observations such as the recent rise in obesity and differences in weight outcomes for different income levels. The model explains circumstances under which junk-food taxes can be effective or ineffective to reduce overweight, as well as differences in price-elasticities of high-calorie food consumption for high and low income earners.

Keywords: Junk food taxes, calorie consciousness, obesity, rational eating,tax policy

JEL Classification: D11, H31, I12

Suggested Citation

Mathieu-Bolh, Nathalie, Hand-to-Mouth Consumption and Calorie Consciousness: Consequences for Junk-Food Taxation (July 20, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3424137 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3424137

Nathalie Mathieu-Bolh (Contact Author)

University of Vermont, Economics Department ( email )

United States
8026560946 (Phone)

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