Contingent Valuation Analysis of Willingness to Pay To Reduce Childhood Obesity

John Cawley

NBER Working Paper No. 12510
Issued in September 2006, Revised in June 2008
NBER Program(s):Health Care, Health Economics

Several recent surveys have asked Americans whether they support policies to reduce childhood obesity. There is reason for skepticism of such surveys because people are not confronted with the tax costs of such policies when they are asked whether they support them. This paper uses contingent valuation (CV), a method frequently used to estimate people's willingness to pay (WTP) for goods or services not transacted in markets, applied to unique survey data from New York State to estimate the willingness to pay to reduce childhood obesity.

The willingness to pay data correlate in predictable ways with respondent characteristics. The mean WTP for a 50% reduction in childhood obesity is $46.41 (95% CI: $33.45, $59.15), which implies a total WTP by New York State residents of $690.6 million (95% CI: $497.7, $880.15), which is less than that implied by previous surveys that did not use CV methods but greater than current spending on policies to reduce childhood obesity and greater than the estimated savings in external costs. The findings provide policymakers with useful information about taxpayers' support for, and preferred budget for, anti-obesity policies.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12510

Published: Cawley, John. “Contingent Valuation Analysis of Willingness to Pay to Reduce Childhood Obesity.” Economics and Human Biology, July 2008, 6(2): 281-292. citation courtesy of

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