Obesity, Business and Public Policy

Obesity, Business and Public Policy

Edited by Zoltán J. Ács and Alan Lyles

The effects of obesity have become practically ubiquitous in the US. This book aims to provide an alternative framework through which to explore the important and controversial obesity debate that has spilled over from the medical community. This book is not about obesity as a medical condition, nor does it offer a wide-ranging discussion on the health effects of obesity or the role of the ‘right’ diet.

Chapter 2: The Spread of Obesity

David B. Audretsch and Dawne DiOrio

Subjects: business and management, organisational behaviour, public management, economics and finance, behavioural and experimental economics, welfare economics, politics and public policy, public administration and management, public policy


David B. Audretsch and Dawne DiOrio INTRODUCTION That more people are becoming obese in the USA is clear. As Cutler et al. (2003, p. 1) point out: In the early 1960s, the average American male weighted 168 pounds. Today, he weighs nearly 180 pounds. Over the same time period, the average female weight rose from 142 pounds to 152 pounds. The trends in very high weight are even more striking. In the early 1970s, 14 percent of the population was classified as medically obese. Today, obesity rates are two times higher. Similarly, Kuchler et al. (2005, p. 1) warn that ‘Americans are increasingly overweight, with the number of obese adults and overweight children doubling between the late 1970s and early 2000s’. It is equally clear that this increase in obesity poses a medical and economic problem. According to Cutler et al.: Weights have been rising in the US throughout the twentieth century, but the rise in obesity since 1980 is fundamentally different from past changes. For most of the twentieth century, weights were below levels recommended for maximum longevity (Fogel, 1994), and the increase in weight represented an increase in health, not a decrease. Today, Americans are fatter than medical science recommends, and weights are still increasing. (2003, p. 1) Cutler et al. provide an analysis of why obesity has increased in the USA, and while their observation that obesity is ‘higher in the US than in any other developed country’ is true, they also acknowledge that ‘many...

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