This week’s episode of Freakonomics on NPR’s Marketplace discussed a possible benefit to The Great Recession. Yes, I said a benefit to the recession. Evidently there is some evidence pointing towards a link between an economic recession and weight loss. While one of the Freakonomics co-authors, Stephen Dubner, thought that the recession would lead to weight gains because people would head for fast food dollar menus, one study suggested the opposite was actually the case.
Christopher Ruhm, an economist at the University of Virginia, explained this relationship in more detail:
“What we've learned over the last decade or so is an initially surprising fact that when times are bad, people get healthier over many dimensions and one of those appears to be obesity. So that for example, if my income is down, I don't go out to eat as often, and meals eaten out of the home are probably less healthy and more caloric.” Source: NPR
Dubner goes on to explain the historical link between dollars and calories. As consumers had more disposable income, the nation began to see an increase in overweight and obese people. Now this isn’t to say that disposable income is the only reason for the nation’s obesity crisis but it is certainly one of the many reasons.
And of course, this topic quickly turns to a discussion about a fat tax – a tax on fat foods that, in theory, would reduce the amount of overweight and obese people in the country. But Dubner has an alternative idea, move the subsidies for corn, wheat and soy over to fruits and vegetables so that consumers could pay less for healthier food items.
What do you think? Is a tax on fat foods a good way to fight the obesity crisis in the nation? What about subsidizing produce instead of grains that are used to create the highly processed foods the nation loves?