NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

An Economic Analysis of Adult Obesity: Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

Shin-Yi Chou, Michael Grossman, Henry Saffer

NBER Working Paper No. 9247
Issued in October 2002
NBER Program(s):   HE

Since the late 1970s, the number of obese adults in the United States has grown by over 50 percent. This paper examines the factors that may be responsible for this rapidly increasing prevalence rate. To study the determinants of adult obesity and related outcomes, we employ micro-level data from the 1984-1999 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. These repeated cross sections are augmented with state level measures pertaining to the per capita number of fast- food restaurants, the per capita number of full-service restaurants, the price of a meal in each type of restaurant, the price of food consumed at home, the price of cigarettes, clean indoor air laws, and hours of work per week and hourly wage rates by age, gender, race, years of formal schooling completed, and marital status. Our main results are that these variables have the expected effects on obesity and explain a substantial amount of its trend. These findings control for individual-level measures of household income, years of formal schooling completed, and marital status.

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Published: Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.

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