Pierre Dubois, Rachel Griffith, Martin O'Connell, 31 March 2017

There have been calls for restrictions on junk food advertising to tackle rising rates of obesity around the world. This column examines the likely effect of a ban on potato crisp advertising. Results suggest that the total quantity of crisps sold would fall by around 15% in the presence of a ban, or by 10% if firms respond with price cuts. The welfare benefits from this would depend on whether current advertising is persuasive, informative or complementary.

Rachel Griffith, Melanie Lührmann, 11 July 2016

The rise in obesity has largely been attributed to an increase in calorie consumption. This column investigates this claim by examining the evolving consumption and lifestyles of English households between 1980 and 2013. While there has been an increase in calories from restaurants, fast food, soft drinks, and confectionery, there has been an overall decrease in total calories purchased. This decline in calories can be partially rationalised with weight gain by the decline in the strenuousness of work and daily life, and increasingly sedentary lifestyles. 

Matteo Galizzi, George Loewenstein, 14 June 2016

Although not a nudge, the ‘soda tax’ in the UK can nonetheless be justified in part on behavioural grounds. This column analyses the potential effectiveness of the soda tax in reducing consumption. As a behavioural instrument, the tax does not go far enough, and is in fact regressive.  A comprehensive junk food tax should be introduced instead, accompanied by nudges, ‘healthy’ subsidies, and regulation of ‘super-sizing’ practices.

Joan Costa-i-Font, Mireia Jofre-Bonet, Julian Le Grand, 02 June 2016

Obesity, particularly in children, is a major health concern in many developed economies, where it presents a costly risk to health services. Any policy response must take into account the inter-generational transmission of overweightness and obesity to children. This column uses evidence from the Health Survey of England to assess the extent to which nature and nurture factors play a role in the overweightness of children. It finds that any effective policy action must tackle parental overweightness to lower rates of overweightness in children.


We are looking for original/unpublished scientific papers that shed new light on the topic “Overweight and Obesity in Asia and the Pacific.” All papers should be based on sound theoretical and/or empirical evidence.

The papers should be related to, though not limited to, one the following topics:

-Determinants of overweight and obesity across countries or within countries across different stratifications (age, gender, education, income, rural/urban, etc.) as well as across time.
-Country studies on the cost of illness, including the costs for health systems as well as the economic costs (including macroeconomic impact) of overweight and obesity.
-Case studies of experiences to reduce overweight and obesity implementing non-market (such as education) or market measures (such as sugar tax).

Charles Courtemanche, Josh Pinkston, Christopher J. Ruhm, George Wehby, 24 July 2015

Obesity is fast becoming a prominent global health issue. This column presents new evidence tentatively suggesting that variables related to the costs of eating – particularly whether there is a big discount warehouse nearby – are leading drivers of the rise in obesity occurring since the early 1980s. These findings should help policymakers work with businesses to find the best solution to tackle obesity.

Richard Dobbs, Corinne Sawers, 13 December 2014

Obesity has a similar impact on global GDP as smoking, and around 60% of obese people are in developing countries. This column discusses the seriousness of the problem, and argues that more policy action is warranted – particularly in the form of low-risk, low-cost behavioural interventions.

Rachel Griffith, 26 May 2014

Diet-related chronic diseases are a major public health concern. Addressing this concern is a key government policy objective. This Vox Talk argues that the impact of these policies on diet and health outcomes depends on how consumers adapt their consumption behaviour and on how firms respond in terms of the prices they set and the foods they offer.

Michael Grossman, Erdal Tekin, Roy Wada, 28 September 2013

Childhood obesity is a major health concern whose effects persist into adulthood. Targeted taxation of unhealthy foods has been shown to reduce body mass index (BMI), but this is an imperfect measure of obesity. This column provides evidence that taxation affects percentage body fat (PBF), a more direct measure. This evidence strengthens the argument in favour of tax-based incentives as a policy tool.

Joan Costa-i-Font, 12 April 2013

Are healthy lifestyles purely about people’s personal choices? Can we explain why specific people are fit, non-smokers and risk-averse? This column argues that policymaking can incentivise health behaviour but that monetary incentives are not the only approach. Academics and policymakers should aim to influence social norms and society’s role models when monetary incentives are not enough.

John Cawley, David Frisvold, Chad Meyerhoefer, 26 September 2012

Should children be forced to do PE? This column presents some of the first evidence showing that physical education at primary schools helps to reduce obesity. In doing so, it provides support for the recommendations by the US Surgeon General and others that PE time should be increased in order to reduce the risk of childhood obesity.

John Komlos, Marek Brabec, 31 August 2010

More than one billion adults across the globe are overweight, and at least 300 million are clinically obese. This column argues that the obesity epidemic in the US has been creeping up throughout the twentieth century, much earlier than the official account acknowledges. Current US standards thereby mislead many overweight and obese youth into believing that their weight is normal when it is not.

Hope Corman, Nancy Reichman, Susan Averett, 06 August 2010

Obesity and teenage sex have become social and public health issues in developed countries. This column looks at the effects of being overweight on attitudes to sex among teenage girls in the US. While obesity is associated with less vaginal intercourse, overweight teenage girls are at least 15% more likely to have had anal sex, with a high chance of sexually transmitted disease.

Giorgio Brunello, Pierre-Carl Michaud, Anna Sanz-de-Galdeano, 06 October 2009

Should the government intervene to reduce obesity on the basis of equity or efficiency? This column gives reasons to be sceptical common arguments for such interventions. Unless health insurance provision creates significant moral hazard problems that encourage obesity, there is little reason to attack obesity on the basis of health insurance externalities.

Neil Gandal, 17 September 2009

Is increasing obesity due to changes in relative food prices? High-energy density foods are less expensive per calorie than fresh fruits and vegetables. Using data from Israel, this column shows that price sensitivity has a significant impact on obesity. In fact, price sensitivity may be more crucial than income.

Christopher J. Ruhm, 12 June 2009

Christopher Ruhm of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his work with Charles Baum, which analyses data from the US National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to explore how body weight and obesity change with age and how that relates to socioeconomic status. The interview was recorded at the Centre for Market and Public Organisation in Bristol (UK) in May 2009.

Erdal Tekin, 18 December 2007

Most social science research on obesity, such as its impact on wages, uses the body mass index (BMI). BMI is imperfect since it fails to distinguish fat from lean body mass. Here is evidence that both men’s and women’s wages are lowered by body fat when a direct measure is used instead of the BMI.

Pierre Dubois, 17 October 2007

Obesity is a becoming a major health problem in Europe and it's driven to some extent by rising junk food consumption. Junk food has negative externalities and recent research finds that its demand is fairly elastic. If it is so natural to tax cigarettes, why not tax junk food as well?

Christopher J. Ruhm, 10 September 2007

Obesity at the individual level is a medical problem, but the rapid rise in global obesity is a policy problem. Research on US data shows that the obesity is inversely related to a variety of measures of social and economic advantage. One important factor is years of maternal education, but much of the link between socioeconomic factors and obesity remains unexplained.

Henry Overman, Diego Puga, Matthew Turner, 19 April 2007

The industrialised world is getting fatter with the US showing the way. CEPR DP6191 tracks the data of nearly 6,000 people over six years and finds a strong correlation between obeseity and living in an urban-sprawl area; however it finds that this comes from the fact that people who are more likely to be obese are more likely to move to sprawling neighbourhoods.