Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

Kevin Lewis

December 24, 2009

Supersize in One Dimension, Downsize in Three Dimensions: Effects of Spatial Dimensionality on Size Perceptions and Preferences

Pierre Chandon & Nailya Ordabayeva
Journal of Marketing Research, December 2009, Pages 739-753

Understanding consumer response to product supersizing and downsizing is important for policy makers, consumer researchers, and marketers. In three laboratory experiments and two field studies, the authors find that changes in size appear smaller when packages and portions change in all three spatial dimensions-height, width, and length-than when they change in only one dimension. Specifically, they show that size estimations follow an inelastic power function of the actual size of the product, especially when all three spatial dimensions change simultaneously. As a result, consumers are more likely to supersize their orders when products change in one dimension and are more likely to downsize their orders when products change in three dimensions. When changing dosage, consumers pour more product into and out of conical containers (e.g., martini cocktail glasses, in which volume changes in three dimensions) than cylindrical containers (e.g., highball glasses, in which volume changes in one dimension). Finally, consumers expect (and marketers offer) steeper quantity discounts when products are supersized in three dimensions than when they are supersized in one dimension, regardless of whether size information is present.


Is a WIC Start a Better Start? Evaluating WIC's Impact on Infant Health Using Program Introduction

Hilary Hoynes, Marianne Page & Ann Huff Stevens
NBER Working Paper, December 2009

The goal of federal food and nutrition programs in the United States is to improve the nutritional well-being and health of low income families. A large body of literature evaluates the extent to which the Supplemental Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) has accomplished this goal, but most studies have been based on research designs that compare program participants to non-participants. If selection into these programs is non-random then such comparisons will lead to biased estimates of the program's true effects. In this study we use the rollout of the WIC program across counties to estimate the impact of the program on infant health. We find that the implementation of WIC lead to an increase in average birthweight and a decrease in the fraction of births that are classified as low birthweight. We find no evidence that these estimates are driven by changes in fertility. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the initiation of WIC lead to a ten percent increase in the birthweight of infants born to participating mothers.


Associations of Television Content Type and Obesity in Children

Frederick Zimmerman & Janice Bell
American Journal of Public Health, forthcoming

Objectives: We tested the associations of content types of children's television viewing with subsequent body mass index (BMI) to assess the plausibility of different causal pathways.

Methods: We used time-use diary data from the Panel Survey of Income Dynamics to measure television viewing categorized by format and educational and commercial content. Analyses were stratified by age because children younger than 7 years are less able to understand the persuasive intent of advertising. BMI z scores in 2002 were regressed on television viewing, sociodemographic variables, mother's BMI, and BMI in 1997 (for older children only).

Results: Among children aged 0 to 6 years in 1997, commercial viewing in 1997 was significantly associated with BMI z scores in 2002 in fully adjusted regressions. Among children older than 6 years, commercial viewing in 2002 was associated with 2002 BMI. These results were robust after adjustment for exercise and eating while watching television.

Conclusions: The evidence does not support the contention that television viewing contributes to obesity because it is a sedentary activity. Television advertising, rather than viewing per se, is associated with obesity.


Measures of the Intergenerational Transmission of Body Mass Index Between Mothers and Their Children in the United States, 1981-2004

Timothy Classen
Economics & Human Biology, forthcoming

This research provides estimates of the intergenerational persistence of Body Mass Index (BMI) between women and their children when both are at similar stages of the lifecycle. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) and the Young Adults of the NLSY79, associations between the weight status of women and their children are measured when both generations are between the ages of 16 and 24. In the entire sample, the measured intergenerational correlation of BMI is significantly different from zero and equal to 0.35. This result differs by gender with a BMI correlation between female children and their mothers of 0.38, compared to a significantly lower BMI correlation of 0.32 between mothers and their sons. Measures of this relationship across the distribution of BMI using quantile regression and quadrant dependence techniques indicate that the intergenerational persistence of BMI is strongest at higher levels of BMI. Strong dependence across generations is found when categorical outcomes of obesity and overweight are implemented. These results provide evidence of the strong persistence of weight problems across generations which may affect economic mobility within families.


The consequence of encouraging girls to be active for weight loss

Kirsten Krahnstoever Davison & Glenn Deane
Social Science & Medicine, forthcoming

The purpose of the study, conducted in Pennsylvania, USA, was to assess the prospective effect of parental encouragement of physical activity (PA) for weight loss on adolescent girls' concern about weight, Body Mass Index (BMI) and objectively-measured PA. Non-Hispanic White girls (N = 177) and their parents were assessed when girls were 9, 11, 13 and 15 years old. At each age, girls' concern about their weight, pubertal development, BMI, and dietary intake were measured along with mothers' and fathers' encouragement of PA for weight loss, modeling of PA, and logistic support for PA. At ages 13 and 15 years, girls' PA was assessed using accelerometry. At age 11, girls' PA was measured using a combination of self-report measures and a standardized assessment of cardiovascular fitness. Parents of obese girls reported the highest encouragement of PA for weight loss; however, girls from all weight categories were exposed to encouragement of PA for weight loss and showed similar age-related increases in parental encouragement. Encouragement of PA for weight loss was prospectively associated with higher concern about weight and higher BMI, independent of pre-existing levels of these constructs and covariates. Encouragement of PA for weight loss was not associated with girls' objectively-measured PA. Parental encouragement of PA for weight loss was therefore not an effective strategy in this sample. Findings are consistent with research on parental child feeding practices, where parental control has been linked with unintended negative dietary and psychosocial outcomes among children.


Evaluating the Impact of Menu Labeling on Food Choices and Intake

Christina Roberto, Peter Larsen, Henry Agnew, Jenny Baik & Kelly Brownell
American Journal of Public Health, forthcoming

Objectives: We assessed the impact of restaurant menu calorie labels on food choices and intake.

Methods: Participants in a study dinner (n=303) were randomly assigned to either (1) a menu without calorie labels (no calorie labels), (2) a menu with calorie labels (calorie labels), or (3) a menu with calorie labels and a label stating the recommended daily caloric intake for an average adult (calorie labels plus information). Food choices and intake during and after the study dinner were measured.

Results: Participants in both calorie label conditions ordered fewer calories than those in the no calorie labels condition. When calorie label conditions were combined, that group consumed 14% fewer calories than the no calorie labels group. Individuals in the calorie labels condition consumed more calories after the study dinner than those in both other conditions. When calories consumed during and after the study dinner were combined, participants in the calorie labels plus information group consumed an average of 250 fewer calories than those in the other groups.

Conclusions: Calorie labels on restaurant menus impacted food choices and intake; adding a recommended daily caloric requirement label increased this effect, suggesting menu label legislation should require such a label. Future research should evaluate menu labeling's impact on children's food choices and consumption.


Child Care Subsidies and Childhood Obesity

Chris Herbst & Erdal Tekin
Georgia State University Working Paper, June 2009

Child care subsidies play a critical role in facilitating the transition of disadvantaged mothers from welfare to work. However, little is known about the influence of these policies on children's health and well-being. In this paper, we study the impact of subsidy receipt on low-income children's weight outcomes in the fall and spring of kindergarten. The goals of our empirical analysis are twofold. We first utilize standard OLS and fixed effects methods to explore body mass index as well as measures of overweight and obesity. We then turn to quantile regression to address the possibility that subsidy receipt has heterogeneous effects on children's weight at different points in the BMI distribution. Results suggest that subsidy receipt is associated with increases in BMI and a greater likelihood of being overweight and obese. We also find substantial variation in subsidy effects across the BMI distribution. In particular, child care subsidies have no effect on BMI at the lower end of the distribution, inconsistent effects in the middle of the distribution, and large effects at the top of the distribution. Our results point to the use of non-parental child care, particularly center-based services, as the key mechanism through which subsidies influence children's weight outcomes.


The Height and BMI values of West Point Cadets after the Civil War

Martin Hiermeyer
Economics & Human Biology, forthcoming

West Point cadets born in the 1880 s were taller (+1.46 cm) than those born in the 1860 s and had significantly higher BMI values (+0.85). However, the cadets were on average undernourished by modern standards, with today's average reference values being about 5 BMI units higher than those of the cadets. Substantial regional differences existed for both height and weight. While West Point cadets born in the 1880 s in the Upper South achieved on average a height of 173.2 cm and a BMI of 21.0, their peers from New England were 171.5 cm tall with a BMI of 21.6.

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