New Perspectives on Economics of Obesity and Health

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 12:30 PM – 2:15 PM

Swissotel Chicago, Montreux 1
Hosted By: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
  • Chair: Sean B. Cash, Tufts University

Young Food Consumers: How Do Children Respond to Point-of-Purchase Interventions?

Sean B. Cash
Tufts University
Anna McAlister
Michigan State University


This paper examines how “adult-facing” food price interventions (such as junk
food taxes) and warning labels may influence kids who are buying their own snacks. This work, conducted through a series of both laboratory and field experiments, also looks at the cognitive correlates of children’s market behavior. A proper understanding of the development and functioning of children as autonomous consumers has importantimplications for the role of labelling policies for good nutritional choices on children and the economy.

Local Food Environment, Dietary Quality, and Weight Status Among United States Individuals

Yanhong Jin
Rutgers University
Maoyong Fan
Ball State University


This study examines the impact of accessibility (e.g., supermarket access, fast food restaurants) and affordability (e.g., food prices) of the local food environment on dietary choices and weight status of U.S. individuals. Two empirical analyses will be carried out. First, using the national data on the Limited Supermarket Access (LSA) and the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), we find that an increase in the percentage of land classified as an LSA area is shown to have a positive effect on overweight/obese risk, but it is not statistically significant after controlling for region/neighborhood-level characteristics. We also find that conditional on the percentage of land classified as an LSA in a zip code area, the number of disjointed LSAs matters for dietary choices and weight outcomes. The second analysis will use the USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) data to further examine the<br />
effects of the proximity to fast food restaurants on food purchase, dietary quality, and weight outcomes. The study will provide insights on policies targeting the local food environment to reduce obesity prevalence.

The Social Cost of Nannying Diet: Examining Psychological Reactance in the Lab

Jakina Debnam
Cornell University


This paper examines evidence of adverse responses to paternalistic anti-obesity interventions. We refer to these responses as psychological reactance, a concept introduced by Brehm (1966) which is demonstrated when individuals increase their desire or preference for an activity that is threatened by some external force—in this case policy interventions. We find significant levels of reactance to proposed soda policies both in laboratory experiments and in field responses to public policy proposals. Using a large set of consumption data from households in and around New York City, we find evidence of increased household soda purchases in response to paternalistic advertisements and proposed restrictions on sugary drink consumption. Such reactance suggests an added social cost to paternalistic policies that must be accounted for in calculating welfare and when determining effectiveness. Policies that reduce or eliminate reactance while achieving similar goals represent a potential Pareto improvement, and thus an increase in

Trade Offs-Between Medical Expenditure and Obesity on Their Impact on Life Expectancy: Evidence From Global Data Set

Sangeeta Bansal
Jawaharlal Nehru University
David Zilberman
University of California-Berkeley


This paper quantitatively analyzes the effect of obesity levels on life expectancy, and the trade-off between health expenditure and obesity levels using a panel data of 186 countries for the years 2005 and 2010. We find that life expectancy has non-monotonic relationship with obesity levels. At low prevalence of obesity, life expectancy is increasing in obesity levels, but beyond a certain threshold level of obesity prevalence, an increase in<br /><br />
obesity level reduces life expectancy. Countries that spend more on health expenditure are able to counter the effects of increased obesity on life expectancy. While medical expenditure mitigates much of impact of obesity on life expectancy it has lower impact on quality of life as measured by healthy life expectancy. Incremental effect of health expenditure in enhancing life expectancy is higher for countries where obesity prevalence is low. It also<br /><br />
finds that increased medical expenditures has a stronger marginal effect on females compared to males. The results are consistent over three data sets: when the health indicator is life expectancy at birth, mortality rate between age group 15-60 years, and healthy life expectancy.
JEL Classifications
  • Q0 - General