SOCIAL DYNAMICS OF OBESITY

Authors

  • MARY A. BURKE,

    1. Burke: Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Boston, MA 02205. Phone 1-617-973-3066, Fax 1-617-973-3957, Email mary.burke@bos.frb.org
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    • *

      We are grateful for the comments of Alberto Bisin, Kislaya Prasad, Peyton Young, Carol Graham, Bill Dickens, Farasat Bokhari, Giorgio Topa, Inas Rashad, and seminar participants at Florida State University, Royal Holloway—University of London, Western Washington University, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the University of Miami. We also thank two anonymous referees.

  • FRANK HEILAND

    1. Heiland: Assistant Professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306. Phone 1-850-644-7083, Fax 1-850-644-4535, Email fheiland@fsu.edu
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    • *

      We are grateful for the comments of Alberto Bisin, Kislaya Prasad, Peyton Young, Carol Graham, Bill Dickens, Farasat Bokhari, Giorgio Topa, Inas Rashad, and seminar participants at Florida State University, Royal Holloway—University of London, Western Washington University, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the University of Miami. We also thank two anonymous referees.


Abstract

We explain the recent increases in obesity in the United States with a model involving falling food prices, endogenous social body weight norms, and heterogeneous human metabolism. Calibrating an analytical choice model to American women in the 30- to 60-yr-old age bracket, we compare the predicted weight distributions to National Health and Nutrition Examination survey data spanning (intermittently) the years 1976–2000. The model, the first to describe explicitly complete weight distribution dynamics for this group, predicts average weights and obesity rates with considerable accuracy and captures a significant portion of the recent growth in upper quantile weights. (JEL D11, I12, Z13)

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