A Spatial Economic Analysis of Urban Land Use and Obesity*


  • *

    The authors acknowledge helpful comments and suggestions provided by Shawna Grosskopf, Darius Lakdawalla, JunJie Wu, four anonymous referees, and seminar participants at the University of California-Irvine, Harvard University, Portland State University, Seattle University, and the 2003 American Agricultural Economics Association meeting.


Abstract.  We analyze an urban spatial model to examine the possible link between urban land use and obesity. Households maximize utility defined over housing, weight, and food subject to a fixed time budget allocated to commuting, calorie expenditure, and work. Our model explains the observed correspondence between high obesity rates and low development densities, but implies that these are determined endogenously in a spatial market equilibrium. We study the sorting of residents by attributes such as income, initial weight, and weight preferences, and examine the impacts on weight and density of urban design modifications that lower the costs of calorie expenditure.