The Effect of Fast Food Restaurants on Obesity and Weight Gain† By Janet Currie, Stefano DellaVigna, Enrico Moretti, and Vikram Pathania* We investigate how changes in the supply of fast food restaurants affect weight outcomes of 3 million children and 3 million pregnant women. Among ninth graders, a fast food restaurant within 0.1 miles of a school results in a 5.2 percent increase in obesity rates. Among pregnant women, a fast-food restaurant within 0.5 miles of residence results in a 1.6 percent increase in the probability of gaining over 20 kilos. The implied effects on caloric intake are one order of magnitude larger for children than for mothers, consistent with smaller travel cost for adults. Non-fast food restaurants and future fast-food restaurants are uncorrelated with weight outcomes. (JEL I12, J13, J16, L83) n the public debate over obesity it is often assumed the widespread availability of fast food restaurants is an important determinant of obesity rates. Policy makers in several cities have responded by restricting the availability or content of fast food, or by requiring posting of the caloric content of the meals (Julie Samia Mair, Matthew W. Pierce, and Stephen P. Teret 2005).1 But the evidence linking fast food and obesity is not strong. Much of it is based on correlational studies in small data sets. In this paper we seek to identify the effect of increases in the local supply of fast food restaurants on obesity rates. Using a new dataset on the exact geographical location of restaurants, we ask how proximity to fast food restaurants affects the obesity rates of over 3 million school children and the weight gain of 3 million * Currie: Department of Economics, Columbia University, 420 W 118th St, New York, NY 10027 (e-mail: email@example.com); DellaVigna: Department of Economics, University of California at Berkeley, 549 Evans Hall #3880, Berkeley, CA 94720-3880 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org); Moretti: Department of Economics, University of California at Berkeley, 549 Evans Hall #3880, Berkeley, CA 94720-3880 (e-mail: moretti@econ. berkeley.edu); Pathania: Cornerstone Research, 353 Sacramento Street, 23rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94111 (e-mail: email@example.com). The authors thank John Cawley, two anonymous referees, and participants in seminars at the National Bureau of Economic Research Summer Institute, the 2009 AEA Meetings, the ASSA 2009 Meetings, the Federal Reserve Banks of New York and Chicago, the Federal Trade Commission, the New School, the Tinbergen Institute, University of California at Davis, the Rady School at University of California at San Diego, and Williams College for helpful comments. We thank Joshua Goodman, Cecilia Machado, Emilia Simeonova, Johannes Schmeider, and Xiaoyu Xia for excellent research assistance. We thank Glenn Copeland of the Michigan Department of Community Health, Katherine Hempstead and Matthew Weinberg of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, and Rachelle Moore of the Texas Department of State Health Services for their help in accessing the data. The authors are solely responsible for the use that has been made of the data and for the contents of this article. † To comment on this article in the online discussion forum, or to view additional materials, visit the articles page at http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/pol.2.3.32. 1 Tami Abdollah. “A Strict Order for Fast Food,” Los Angeles Times, A-1, Sept. 10, 2007, http://articles.latimes. com/2007/sep/10/local/me-fastfood10. See also Sarah McBride. “Exiling the Happy Meal,” Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2008, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121668254978871827.html (Accessed on Nov. 9, 2009). 32
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pregnant women. For school children, we observe obesity rates for...