Obesity and Self Control : Evidence from Food Purchase Data

Emily Wang (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

June 20, 2019, 14:00–15:30


Room MS 002

Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization Seminar


In this paper, we examine the relationship between obesity and food purchase behavior using a novel and unique dataset that links individual-level scanner data on food purchases to survey data containing questions about an individual's obesity status. We find that obese individuals have higher purchase shares of unhealthy goods, are more likely to purchase products oered in checkout lanes that exploit consumer temptation, and are significantly more sensitive to price changes in product categories that are both unhealthy and tempting. We find no differences in price sensitivity across obesity levels in comparable product categories that would not be considered tempting. Moreover, we find that the relationship between price sensitivity and BMI is significantly smaller for individuals who have recently lost weight. Our empirical results are consistent with the model of self-control developed by Gul and Pesendorfer (2001) and Bénabou and Pycia (2002). We do not find systematic support for the idea that more obese individuals are more myopic, in contrast to earlier research. We also do not nd systematic evidence that obesity is correlated with worse information about the consequences of unhealthy eating.