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Does agricultural trade liberalization increase obesity in developing countries?

Sébastien Mary () and Avraham Stoler

Review of Development Economics, 2021, vol. 25, issue 3, 1326-1350

Abstract: Agricultural trade liberalization has been sometimes accused of being one of the main causes of increasing obesity and overweight in developing countries. However, there is no consensus on the impacts of trade on obesity in the literature. We estimate the impacts of agricultural trade openness on the prevalence of obesity and overweight using a sample of 70 developing countries between 1990 and 2013. We find that a 1% increase in agricultural trade openness would decrease obesity prevalence by 0.5%. We find similar results for the prevalence of overweight. Our results are robust to alternative specifications. Our findings suggest that long‐term health concerns related to overnutrition associated with agricultural trade liberalization in developing countries are overstated. Public health interventions should target domestic causes behind overnutrition rather than trade policies and agreements.

Date: 2021
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