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The Causes of Obesity

Posted Aug 26 2008 4:08pm
Jason Shafrin asks Why Are We Obese ?

He comments on an NBER article and points out that a food tax would unfairly affect the poor.

I have two counters:

1. Who cares? As a matter of fact, the fact that a food tax affects anyone is the only way that it can potentially affect behavior. If a parking ticket costs me less than parking in the lot up the street, guess what I am going to do. The question is best asked: do food taxes affect consumption?

2. Let's focus on how the environment influences behavior. The physical environment and the logic of our routines dictates what and how much we eat.

I have gained weight since moving to the suburbs; being too tired after my absurdly long commute to take advantage of recreational opportunities in my neighborhood. I eat on the road much more often than I ever did and since I work in an inner city environment, I can pretty much tell you that there isn't a whole lot of fresh food available in poor urban neighborhoods. The concentration of high fat eating opportunities (fast food and convenience stores with poor food choices) in these neighborhoods is absurd. Any structural change that alters the supply-demand relationship here is welcome.

The community I serve is fortunate in having a community center with a gym. This is the exception and not the rule across the country. It's hard to exercise without a gym, it's hard to walk when the dealers are out, it's hard to ride a bike where there are no parks and when the traffic is unsafe.

Our weight is a reflection of our lifestyle. Needless to say greater caloric intake is part of the problem, but I think it's an uphill climb given how are lives have been structured.
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