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Native American obesity and the associated health conditions are generally thought to result in part from a genetic predisposition to overeating fats and carbohydrates, called the thrifty gene. Although coined by nutritional scientists, this study maintains the origin of the thrifty gene lies in economics. Apparently harmful overconsumption and addiction constitute economically rational behavior if the increment to current utility from adding to one's stock of consumption capital is greater than the present value of utility lost in the future due to ill health and the costs of withdrawal. Tests of these conditions for such rational addiction are conducted using two-stage household production approach. The results obtained by estimating this model in a panel of Native and non-Native supermarket scanner data show that both Natives and non-Natives tend to be inherently forward-looking in their nutrient choices, but Natives tend to have far higher long-run demand elasticities for carbohydrates compared to non-Natives. Consequently, reductions in real food prices over time, primarily among foods that are dense in simple carbohydrates, leads Native Americans to over-consume potentially harmful nutrients relative to their traditional diet.

Keywords: Type II diabetes ; household production ; Native Americans ; demand estimation ; shadow values.

Subject(s): Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety

Issue Date: 2004

Publication Type: Working or Discussion Paper

PURL Identifier:

Total Pages: 42

Series Statement: Working Paper MSABR 04-1

Record appears in: Arizona State University > Morrison School of Agribusiness and Resource Management > Working Papers

Autor: Richards, Timothy J. ; Patterson, Paul M.


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