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date: 27 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Obesity deserves attention by economists because it has moved to the forefront of public health concerns worldwide and because it is a health condition that defies the general economic pattern that economic prosperity is associated with better health. The economic theory of household behavior and accompanying empirical evidence both suggest that married couples are able to reap the rewards of more efficient investment in health. Obesity, however, is an important exception, with both men and women tending to gain weight following marriage. Wealthier societies should also be able to invest more effectively in child health, but the epidemic of childhood obesity in rich countries counters this trend. This essay argues that the paradoxical economics of obesity must be studied within the primary context where obesity-related decisions are made: the family. Thus, the case of obesity reveals the benefits of and challenges to obtaining a better understanding of familial health capital.

Keywords: obesity, childhood obesity, health economics, family economics, marriage

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