Social Dynamics of Obesity

21 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2007

See all articles by Mary A. Burke

Mary A. Burke

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Frank Heiland

Florida State University - Department of Economics

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We explain the recent increases in obesity in the United States with a model involving falling food prices, endogenous social body weight norms, and heterogeneous human metabolism. Calibrating an analytical choice model to American women in the 30- to 60-yr-old age bracket, we compare the predicted weight distributions to National Health and Nutrition Examination survey data spanning (intermittently) the years 1976-2000. The model, the first to describe explicitly complete weight distribution dynamics for this group, predicts average weights and obesity rates with considerable accuracy and captures a significant portion of the recent growth in upper quantile weights.

Suggested Citation

Burke, Mary A. and Heiland, Frank, Social Dynamics of Obesity. Economic Inquiry, Vol. 45, No. 3, pp. 571-591, July 2007, Available at SSRN: or

Mary A. Burke (Contact Author)

Federal Reserve Bank of Boston ( email )

600 Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02210
United States
617-973-3066 (Phone)

Frank Heiland

Florida State University - Department of Economics ( email )

Tallahassee, FL 30306-2180
United States

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