Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Big Box Retailers Foster Obesity

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Big Box Retailers Foster Obesity

Article excerpt

Big-box retailers Costco, Sam's Club, BJ's Wholesale, and Walmart, along with full-service and fast-food restaurants, are key contributors to the nation's obesity epidemic, according to research by a health economist in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.

Americans now live near an abundance of cheap and readily available food from a variety of sources, report Georgia State health economist Charles Courtemanche and his colleagues in a new study. A closer look reveals little difference among the sources themselves.

"People are doing a lot of eating," says Courtemanche. "But as economists, we know people's preferences don't change overnight, so the steady rise since 1980 must involve their incentives to eat."

This question led Courtemanche and his colleagues to build a comprehensive economic model of body weight and 27 state-level variables they categorized as general economic conditions (unemployment and income) and labor supply, as well as the monetary or time costs associated with calorie intake (food prices, retail presence), physical activity (gasoline prices, fitness centers) and smoking. Their research, titled "Can Changing Economic Factors Explain the Rise in Obesity?" was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.


"Changes in variables related to calorie intake collectively explain 37 percent of the rise in body mass index [BMI] rates and 43 percent of the rise in obesity," Courtemanche says. …

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