Obesity (was: a to-do list for the next century)

From: Robin Hanson (rhanson@gmu.edu)
Date: Mon Mar 27 2000 - 14:12:08 MST

James Rogers wrote:
> > That is true. However, look at how little money is being spent on obesity
> > research, and that is something a quarter of Americans suffer from.
>I am not sure that this research would be all that useful, since I would
>estimate that 90+% of obesity in the U.S. is essentially environmental.

That is the thesis of: http://papers.nber.org/papers/W7423

The Long-Run Growth in Obesity as a Function of Technological Change

           Tomas J. Philipson, Richard A. Posner
                NBER Working Paper No. W7423
                Issued in November 1999

                 ---- Abstract -----

This paper analyzes the factors contributing to the worldwide long-run rise
in obesity and the effects of public interventions on its continued growth.
The growth of obesity in a population results from an increase in calorie
consumption relative to physical activity. Yet in developed countries,
obesity has grown with modest rises in calorie consumption and with a
substantial increase in both dieting and recreational exercise. We consider
the economic incentives that give rise to a growth in obesity by stimulating
intake of calories while discouraging the expending of calories on physical
activity. We argue that technological change provides a natural
interpretation of the long-run growth in obesity despite a rise in dieting
and exercise, that it predicts that the effect of income on obesity falls
with economic development, and that it implies that the growth in obesity
may be self-limiting.

Robin Hanson rhanson@gmu.edu http://hanson.gmu.edu
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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