Seminar: Obesity and Self Control: Evidence from Food Purchase Data
Abstract: Does obesity appear to be related to lack of commitment or self-control? We assess this question 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, when and whether the individual began a diet, and whether the individual is concerned about his or her health or weight. Our empirical analysis is motivated by a theoretical model of how consumption and weight evolves in response to changes in marketing variables. In our model, individuals may be present-biased and overconfident about their future present-bias. Comparative statics from our model suggest overconfident is positively related to obesity and that the consumption of more overconfident individuals is more responsive to marketing stimuli. We test these implications in our data. In particular we explore whether after an individual states he or she has begun a diet, or expressed concern about weight, a more obese individual is more likely to purchase unhealthy food products in response to changes in marketing variables.