The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity and Weight Gain
We investigate the health consequences of changes in the supply of fast food using the exact geographical location of fast food restaurants. Specifically, we ask how the supply of fast food affects the obesity rates of 3 million school children and the weight gain of over 3 million pregnant women. We find that among 9th grade children, a fast food restaurant within a tenth of a mile of a school is associated with at least a 5.2 percent increase in obesity rates. There is no discernable effect at .25 miles and at .5 miles. Among pregnant women, models with mother fixed effects indicate that a fast food restaurant within a half mile of her residence results in a 1.6 percent increase in the probability of gaining over 20 kilos, with a larger effect at .1 miles. The effect is significantly larger for African-American and less educated women. For both school children and mothers, the presence of non-fast food restaurants is uncorrelated with weight outcomes. Moreover, proximity to future fast food restaurants is uncorrelated with current obesity and weight gain, conditional on current proximity to fast food. The implied effects of fast-food on caloric intake are at least one order of magnitude larger for students than for mothers, consistent with smaller travel cost for adults.
The authors thank John Cawley, the editor, two anonymous referees and participants in seminars at the NBER Summer Institute, the 2009 AEA Meetings, the ASSA 2009 Meetings, the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Chicago, the FTC, the New School, the Tinbergen Institute, UC Davis, the Rady School at UCSD, and Williams College for helpful comments. We thank Joshua Goodman, Cecilia Machado, Emilia Simeonova, Johannes Schmeider, and Xiaoyu Xia for excellent research assistance. We thank Glenn Copeland of the Michigan Dept. of Community Health, Katherine Hempstead and Matthew Weinberg of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, and Rachelle Moore of the Texas Dept. of State Health Services for their help in accessing the data. The authors are solely responsible for the use that has been made of the data and for the contents of this article. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Over the past thirty years, the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases in the U.S. has risen sharply. Since the early 1970s,...
Janet Currie & Stefano Della Vigna & Enrico Moretti & Vikram Pathania, 2010. "The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity and Weight Gain," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 32-63, August. citation courtesy of