The prevalence of obesity and overweight has increased dramatically in the United States since the mid-1970s, and nearly two of three adult Americans are either overweight or obese. Although high costs—in health, social, and economic terms—are known to be associated with obesity, how the U.S. population reached this point is less well understood.

Examining the causes of the increase in obesity and proposed interventions under an economist's lens may help identify potential solutions to the obesity crisis. To help address growing public health concerns about rising obesity rates, ERS research examines:

  • differences in dietary patterns by social, demographic, and economic factors,
  • how economic incentives and behavioral factors influence food choices and diet quality,
  • how food choices affect diet quality and health,
  • the association between dietary patterns and obesity, and
  • the intended and unintended consequences of obesity policies.