Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The thicker the waistband...

Yes, West Virginia is near the top of the obesity list, too.

Though the more interesting comparison comes when income is thrown into the mix. The five most obese states-- Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Kentucky-- all have higher poverty rates than the norm. The five least obese states-- Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont-- exhibit just the opposite.

It seems to imply that exercise-- if that plays a distinct role in obesity-- is a luxury good. What's more interesting is that as incomes rise, the cost of exercise becomes higher as well (in the sense that the opportunity cost of an hour of exercise is an hour away from working at your higher wage). Does this make exercise an uber-luxury good? My first inclination was that you could describe leisure in the same light, but leisure doesn't necessarily increase as we move up the income scale-- not until we get pretty far up the ladder, anyway. I'm trying to think of another good that would cost more for higher income individuals, yet would show an increase in consumption as well.

Business lunches? But couldn't those be construed to help business and increase income?

13 comments:

Daniel Skarbek said...

If I read you right, you are implying that the poverty level effects the general obesity of the populus. That the high income allows more time for exercise, resulting in thinner people. But, isn't is possible that the causality goes the other way around? Could it be that obesity has a negative effect on earning potential, or that physically fit people make more money? That is the direction that I would expect the causality to run. Or, (and here I don't know the fancy term) they are mutually related. Meaning, they are both caused by the same inputs. The same internal forces that drives a person to take care of their body also drives them to perform at work in a way that results in higher incomes.

Thomas said...

Might it be the case that people with higher incomes actually have lower opportunity costs? A low-wage person probably is paid by the hour; each hour of time has the same opportunity cost.

A high-income person is likely to be salaried. As a project manager, my opportunity cost for my after-work time is very low. I can't sell my skills as a PM for 2-3 hours per day. Other salaried individuals are likely to be in the same position. Our opportunity cost is likely to be equal to that of the low-income skilled laborer. But because we earn higher incomes, the marginal value of a dollar is less. So the leisure/exercise cost per hour of a salaried employee might actually be cheaper (in a relative sense) than the leisure/exercise cost for an hourly employee.

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