The Economics of Obesity

John Cawley

in The Oxford Handbook of the Social Science of Obesity

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199736362
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Economics of Obesity

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This chapter explains the economic approach to studying obesity-related behaviors such as diet and physical activity, and deals with the contribution of food prices, income, maternal employment, and technological change to obesity. It also discusses the economic rationale for government intervention, and then covers the economic insights into obesity treatment and prevention, and the design of government policies concerning obesity. Some claim that the neoclassical model assumes that consumer behavior is too rational. Differences across people in the economic trade-offs that they face partly explain differences in obesity, and changes over time in the relative costs or benefits of certain foods or activities partly explain the recent rise in obesity. Economic changes that altered the relative costs or benefits of certain foods or activities contributed to the recent rise in obesity in the United States. The economic rationale for government intervention is to fix market failures.

Keywords: obesity; economics; diet; physical activity; food prices; income; maternal employment; technological change; government policies; neoclassical model

Article.  8429 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Health, Education, and Welfare

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