Friday, June 17, 2011

The Economics of Obesity in Three Charts

For those who wonder why we have an obesity problem in the U.S., this chart from I found on the Economix blog explains a lot:
Unhealthy foods are becoming cheaper, while healthy foods are getting more expensive. This chart at Lapham's Quarterly illustrates the stark difference in calories purchased for a dollar:
While people point to lifestyle issues, like the number of hours we spend in front of screens, as the cause of rising obesity, it may not be a matter of personal character, but of economically rational behavior on the part of consumers. Whether this represents rational behavior on the part of policy makers is another matter. This chart from the Consumerist, which uses the old food pyramid, provides a clear illustration of how badly skewed our food subsidies are:
I find it particularly distressing that some see obesity among the poor as evidence of their character shortcomings. Given the distorted economics of food in this country, they may be acting rationally in economic terms by buying the most calories for the dollar, even though their purchasing patterns don't optimize long term well being.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a bunch of nonsense.

The graph is purposely misleading. Tuna fish is 4 cents per ounce as is the Big Mac.

If you do not want to drink tap water you can opt for a plethora of filtration systems.

As for eating healthy cheaply there are many options if you do your homework instead of bitch and moan

Finally, are we to believe you have turned a new leaf and are against ALL Federal subsidies? You can’t demand money for the subsidies you like then stand on your soapbox and bitch and moan about the ones you don’t like.
The Federal government should not be deciding the winners and losers in any market. That is for the consumer to decide.

John Galt

10:42 AM, June 19, 2011  
Blogger Tom Noyes said...

The chart presents the cost per calorie opposed to the cost per serving. A serving of one food may be more or less healthy than another.

There is a big difference between subsidies for entrenched industries that create large negative externalities such as health or environmental costs and incentives for new industries that would create public health or environmental benefits.

9:07 PM, June 19, 2011  

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