Technological Change and the Growth of Obesity

A Theoretical and Empirical Examination

Published In: National Bureau of Economic Research, Dec. 19, 2002, p. 1-37, 11

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2002

by Darius N. Lakdawalla, Tomas Philipson

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This paper provides a theoretical and empirical examination of the long-run growth in weight over time. The authors argue that technological change has induced weight growth by making home- and market-production more sedentary and by lowering food prices through agricultural innovation. The authors analyze how such technological change leads to unexpected relationships among income, food prices, and weight. Using individual-level data from 1976 to 1994, they find that such technology-based reductions in food prices and job-related exercise have had significant impacts on weight across time and populations. In particular, the authors find that about forty percent of the recent growth in weight seems to be due to agricultural innovation that has lowered food prices, while sixty percent may be due to demand factors such as declining physical activity from technological changes in home and market production.

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