Economic Perspectives on Obesity Policy

Tomas J. Philipson and Richard A. Posner

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

Economic Perspectives on Obesity Policy

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  • Health, Education, and Welfare



This chapter addresses the positive and normative analysis of obesity. The social aspects of obesity may have a multiplier effect on the growth of obesity. The future of obesity depends on which of two effects on obesity that stem from income growth dominate: the more sedentary way the higher income is generated, or the larger demand for health which it induces. The principal public interventions, actual or proposed, thus far are education, taxation, fast-food regulation, and a little of everything on the model of the campaign against cigarette smoking. On a positive level, simple price changes seem to explain the overall patterns of change in diet and exercise and the resulting impact on weight. From a normative perspective, there has been little work addressing the possibility that obesity may be a private health problem rather than a public one.

Keywords: obesity; income; health; education; taxation; fast-food regulation; cigarette smoking

Article.  5110 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Health, Education, and Welfare

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