Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Does The Tax Code Contribute To Obesity?

Bret N. Bogenschneider (Indiana University East), Is the Design of the Tax System a Causal Factor For Obesity?, 22 Quinnipiac Health L.J. 323 (2019):

The abrupt increase in obesity rates in the United States beginning in the early 1980s coincided with a shift in the composition of the tax base where the overall portion borne by labour income increased by 20 basis points. The increase in the relative taxation of labour income is accordingly an "economic factor" that coincided with the onset of the obesity epidemic. The increase in the taxation of labour may be a causal factor in the observed increase in obesity rates. For example, a decline in the after-tax income of workers may cause a downward shift in the demand for healthier, but more expensive, types of food.

Relatively high taxes on workers may also effectively cancel or offset the proposed benefits of Pigouvian taxes (e.g., "sin" taxes on sugar sweetened beverages) posited from a reduction in demand for these products since poorer people tend to disproportionately demand such products.

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Only a professor feeling the need to publish would make an argument that a 20 basis point increase in tax revenue share from labor income was a cause of increased obesity in America. It's time to slash the number of journals as a first step to reduce this sort of crap.

Posted by: PaulB | Mar 25, 2020 6:49:06 AM

Seems like this hypothesis is fairly easy to test empirically. Is there is greater obesity problem in states with higher taxes?

Posted by: David Elkins | Mar 25, 2020 1:52:42 PM

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