NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Growth of Obesity and Technological Change: A Theoretical and Empirical Examination

Darius Lakdawalla, Tomas Philipson

NBER Working Paper No. 8946
Issued in May 2002
NBER Program(s):   HE

This paper provides a theoretical and empirical examination of the long-run growth in weight over time. We argue that technological change has induced weight growth by making home- and market-production more sedentary and by lowering food prices through agricultural innovation. We analyze how such technological change leads to unexpected relationships among income, food prices, and weight. Using individual-level data from 1976 to 1994, we then find that such technology-based reductions in food prices and job-related exercise have had significant impacts on weight across time and populations. In particular, we find that about forty percent of the recent growth in weight seems to be due to agricultural innovation that has lowered food prices, while sixty percent may be due to demand factors such as declining physical activity from technological changes in home and market production.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8946

Published: Lakdawalla, Darius & Philipson, Tomas, 2009. "The growth of obesity and technological change," Economics and Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 283-293, December.

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