NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Patrick McAlvanah

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Working Papers

October 2011Impatience, Incentives, and Obesity
with Charles J. Courtemanche, Garth Heutel: w17483
This paper explores the relationship between time preferences, economic incentives, and body mass index (BMI). Using data from the 1979 cohort of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we first show that greater impatience increases BMI even after controlling for demographic, human capital, and occupational characteristics as well as income and risk preference. Next, we provide evidence of an interaction effect between time preference and food prices, with cheaper food leading to the largest weight gains among those exhibiting the most impatience. The interaction of changing economic incentives with heterogeneous discounting may help explain why increases in BMI have been concentrated amongst the right tail of the distribution, where the health consequences are especially severe. Lastl...

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