Economics of Obesity
By Arnold Kling
Economists Shin-Yi Chou, Michael Grossman, and Henry Saffer attempt to weigh in on the issue of why obesity is spreading.
These data show that more household time is going to market work. There is
correspondingly less time and energy available for home and leisure activities such as food preparation and active leisure. The increases in hours worked and labor force participation rates, reductions in wage rates, and declines or modest increases in real income experienced by certain groups appear to have stimulated the demand for inexpensive convenience and fast food which has increased caloric intakes. At the same time, the reduction in the time available for active leisure has reduced calories expended.
The final trend that we wish to call attention to is the anti-smoking campaign, which began to accelerate in the early 1970s. Individuals who quit smoking typically gain weight.
The authors view work outside the home and fattening food as complements. They say that the data supports this hypothesis, because obesity increases as work outside the home increases.
For Discussion. If the authors are correct, then what effect would a tax on fast food consumption have on labor force participation?