Discussion Paper

Lose Some, Save Some: Obesity, Automobile Demand, and Gasoline Consumption in the U.S.

Aug 31, 2009 | Shanjun Li, Yanyan Liu, Junjie Zhang


This paper examines the unexplored link between the prevalence of overweight and obesity and vehicle demand in the United States. Exploring annual sales data of new passenger vehicles at the model level in 48 U.S. counties from 1999 to 2005, we find that a 10 percentage point increase in the rate of overweight and obesity reduces the average MPG of new vehicles demanded by 2.5 percent: an effect that requires a 30 cent increase in gasoline prices to counteract. Our findings suggest that policies to reduce overweight and obesity can have additional benefits for energy security and the environment.