Bednarek, Heather L. and Jeitschko, Thomas D. and Pecchenino, Rowena A.
Gluttony and Sloth:
Signs of Trouble or Evidence of Bliss?
Contributions to Economic Analysis & Policy, 5 (1.6).
In a model of rational agent choice in which agents value consumption and leisure as well as
health, we establish that individuals, unconstrained by concerns of income or time, can and will
choose levels of consumption and leisure that exceed their physiological optima. By how much
they exceed the optima depends on a variety of factors, most importantly, the utility cost (benefit)
of achieving health. Observed positive long-run trends in adult weight, brought on by higher
levels of consumption and lower levels of physical activity, often interpreted as a public health
crisis in the making, can be explained by these factors. But, rather than the trend suggesting
crisis, it suggests only optimal responses to altered, and perhaps improved, circumstances. While
individuals today, all else equal, may weigh more than those a generation or two ago, they also
may be happier.
||Preprint version of original published article. We thank John Goddeeris, Steven Haider, David Madden, Scott Drewianka, seminar participants at the
University of Galway, Michigan State University, the University of East Anglia, DePaul University, and
Texas Tech University and participants of the Midwest Economic Theory meetings in Pittsburgh, the
Midwest Economic Association Meetings in St. Louis, the Irish Economic Association Meetings in
Limerick, and the International Health Economics Association 2003 Meetings in San Francisco. Any
remaining errors are ours alone.
||consumption; leisure; rational agent choice; public health; obesity; exercise;
||Social Sciences > Economics
Prof. Rowena Pecchenino
||26 Oct 2011 14:38
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