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The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy

Editor-in-Chief: Jürges, Hendrik / Ludwig, Sandra

Ed. by Auriol , Emmanuelle / Brunner, Johann / Fleck, Robert / Friebel, Guido / Requate, Till / Tsui, Kevin / Wichardt, Philipp / Zulehner, Christine

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Gluttony and Sloth: Symptoms of Trouble or Signs of Bliss? A Theory of Choice in the Presence of Behavioral Adjustment Costs

Heather Bednarek1 / Thomas D. Jeitschko2 / Rowena A Pecchenino3

1Saint Louis University,

2Michigan State University,

3Michigan State University,

Citation Information: Contributions in Economic Analysis & Policy. Volume 5, Issue 1, ISSN (Online) 1538-0645, DOI: 10.2202/1538-0645.1507, February 2006

Publication History

Published Online:
2006-02-15

Abstract

We present a model in which agents value food, leisure and health, and take into account how their food consumption and leisure affect their health. Drawing insights from behavioral psychology and medical practice, agents face adjustment costs in choosing consumption and leisure. We find that recent increases in obesity rates are not cause for concern from either the standpoint of individually assessed well-being, nor necessarily of the medical practitioner. However, the fact that agents who hope to adjust their lifestyles face adjustment costs indicates that there is potential for policy in increasing individual welfare: first, by taking measures that may decrease the incidence of supra-optimal consumption and leisure and, second, by taking measures that may facilitate behavioral change. However, it must be recognized, especially in the latter case, public policy may be limited by diverse circumstances faced by individuals that will not be amenable to general "one-size-fits-all" types of policies.

Keywords: economics of obesity; overweightness; behavioral choice; adjustment costs; technological change

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