The Economics of Obesity | WSJ | 06/28/22

By Tomas J. Philipson

There’s an economic explanation for America’s obesity problem. High-calorie foods are cheaper than ever, and changes in the way we work have created a sedentary nation. Happily, the market is generating a solution: medical innovations that can reduce obesity. But insurers and the government are limiting coverage for these treatments because of shortsighted business calculations.

Obesity afflicts 42% of the U.S. population. Many attribute America’s weight problem to genetics, addiction or culture, but the analysis Richard Posner and I began in 1999 demonstrates that the problem is an economic one driven by technological change. Agricultural innovations have increased output and cut the price of food dramatically. Historically, it wasn’t feasible to produce all the food necessary for an obese population this large, but today we can do it easily and cheaply.

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Posted on

June 28, 2022

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