Saturday, July 10, 2010

Suburbs, obesity and Wal-Mart

Economix highlights this paper by Courtemanche and Carden who argue that the growth of Wal-Mart Supercenters explains 11 percent of the rise in obesity over the past 25 years. These stores also happen to be exclusively in suburban locations. The authors also argue that cost savings on food are largely offset by increased medical costs related to weight. Much like the urban paradox where restaurant accessibility correlates positively to weight, access to cheap and plentiful calories is associated with negative public health outcomes. Studies of the built environment and obesity have to account for such pervasive calorie availability. We have to worry about offsetting activity gains with increased calorie access.

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