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Do You Want Fries with That? An Exploration of Serving Size, Social Welfare, and Our Waistlines

19 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2004  

Thomas D. Jeitschko

Michigan State University - Department of Economics

Rowena Pecchenino

NUI Maynooth - Department of Economics

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Abstract

In the debate over increasing obesity rates, fingers are often pointed at big food and their marketing practices. It is noted that restaurant meals are often larger than home-cooked meals and that portion sizes in restaurants have dramatically increased over the past few years. We investigate the issue by considering socially optimal - rather than decentralized profit maximizing - portions in restaurants to see whether welfare maximizing strategies may also be waistline-increasing. We demonstrate that socially optimal restaurant meals are larger in size than average home-cooked meals and, while many agents chose to super-size, the option of super-sizing actually alleviates the size discrepancy between home-cooked and restaurant meals. Moreover, socially optimal portion sizes at home and in restaurants increase with relative reductions in the marginal costs and/or relative increases in the fixed costs of meal preparation. Given this cost structure, when offered fries, a greater proportion of the population will answer with an enthusiastic yes!

Keywords: Obesity, Overweightness, Economics of Obesity, Fast Food, Big Food, Consumption Choices

JEL Classification: I10, D11

Suggested Citation

Jeitschko, Thomas D. and Pecchenino, Rowena, Do You Want Fries with That? An Exploration of Serving Size, Social Welfare, and Our Waistlines. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=560981 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.560981

Thomas D. Jeitschko

Michigan State University - Department of Economics ( email )

110 Marshall-Adams Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824
United States
517-355-8302 (Phone)
517-432-1068 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.msu.edu/~jeitschk/

Rowena Pecchenino (Contact Author)

NUI Maynooth - Department of Economics ( email )

County Kildare
Ireland
35317083751 (Phone)
35317083934 (Fax)

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