Obesity and hyperbolic discounting: An experimental analysis

Timothy Richards, Stephen F. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Models of rational addiction suggest that obesity is consistent with time-consistent preferences. Behavioral economists maintain that addictions such as alcoholism, smoking and over-eating represent examples of present-bias in decision making that is fundamentally irrational. In this article, conduct an experiment to test whether individual discount schedules are time-consistent and whether discount rates are higher for subjects who exhibit patterns of risky behavior. Our results show that discount functions are quasi-hyperbolic in shape, and that obesity and drinking are positively related to the discount rate. Anti-obesity policy, therefore, would be best directed to informing individuals as to the long-term implications of short-term gratification, rather than taxing foods directly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-198
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • Addiction
  • Discounting
  • Experiments
  • Hyperbolic
  • Obesity
  • Time-inconsistency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Economics and Econometrics


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