Journal Article

Gluttony and sloth? Calories, labour market activity and the rise of obesity

Date: 24 June 2016
Publisher: Wiley
Published in: Journal of the European Economic Association , forthcoming
JEL classification: JEL: D12, I12, I18
DOI: 10.1111/jeea.12183

The rise in obesity has largely been attributed to an increase in calorie consumption. We show that offi cial government household survey data indicate that calories have declined in England between 1980 and 2013; while there has been an increase in calories from food out at restaurants, fast food, soft drinks and confectionery, overall there has been a decrease in total calories purchased. Households have shifted towards more expensive calories, both by substituting away from home production towards market production, and substituting towards higher quality foods. We show that the decline in calories can be partially, but not entirely, rationalised with weight gain by a decline in the strenuousness of work and daily life.