Friday, August 27, 2010

A Funny Endogeneity Problem

One big question is whether variables like the deficit or Fed Funds rate causes GDP, or GDP causes the deficit, or both are caused by something else. Sometimes, these relationships change in various situations, as for example usually your temperature merely reflects an illness, but extreme exposure to cool water can lead to a low body temperature that directly causes death. It's a big problem in economics, where sadly we often don't have enough data.

However, common sense is very helpful in these environments. Over at Bloggingheads, this woman argues that obese, poor Americans are really hungry--a novel hunger problem--which is caused by their poverty.
"One of the biggest risk factors for somebody being both hungry and obese is living in poverty"


Anonymous said...

She seems so sincere too.

Paul Jaminet said...

Actually, most obese people are hungry much of the time, while most lean people are not hungry.

The reason for their hunger is that they are malnourished from eating crappy diets, and that they have metabolic derangements which lead to excessive storage of fats.

It does have a connection to poverty. Poor people tend to buy toxic, low-nutrient-density foods because they have the lowest cost per calorie. The toxins help derange their metabolism, the poor nutrition further damages the body.

The interesting sociological and economic question is why poor people don't choose to eat inexpensive healthy foods like eggs and dairy and take a multivitamin. Part of the answer is agricultural subsidies, which reduce the price of toxic low-nutrient-density foods.

Sameer said...

yeah, i mean, if you're poor, then you'll be hungry, so you'll eat more, which makes you obese.

makes perfect sense.

i actually don't disagree with paul.

Eric Falkenstein said...

I agree that carb loading is a treadmill...but that implies you need to cut back, switch to more complex carbohydrates, not that you don't have access to sustenance. I have zero sympathy for the obese poor in terms of access to calories. I feel no obligation to these people, who I think are made worse via their feelings of entitlement to not merely food, but health, while still maintaining their bad habits.

WebJackson said...

Oh ok, so poverty is the new cop-out for being obese?

Obesity comes down to one thing - making choices about the food we put in our mouths. White Castle and McDonald's cost more than soup and bread. Logic states the poor would choose the latter.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, why have Americans stopped eating soup? 50 years ago you practically had soup with every meal. Asians eat tons of soup, they are a lot less obese on average.

Dave said...

I doubt carb-loading is the main issue. The poor have plentiful access to fat and protein as well.

There are huge differences in basal metabolic rates among people -- far greater in percentage terms than variations in height or other attributes. Not getting fat is harder for some people than others.

That said, pretty much any healthy person sufficiently motivated can avoid being fat by restricting their caloric intake enough. But that takes motivation, and when you feel you have few prospects for a brighter future, you're less inclined to deprive yourself of daily pleasures to keep your weight down. That's why the long-term unemployed often put on weight, and, conversely, people aiming for high professional goals often lose weight before campaigning for them.

Dave said...


If you haven't seen it yet, take a look at the FT's article on happiness in its weekend edition. The article cites research that's consistent with your theory about envy driving human behavior. E.g., being unemployed is depressing, generally, but less depressing when lots of other people are unemployed (because in that case it represents a little less of a drop in relative status).

Bernard Guerrero said...