Does Legal Heritage Affect Obesity? The Channel of Motor Vehicle Dependence

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P. Carlin, M. Kidd and M.Ulubasoglu. Journal of Comparative Economics, May 2013, v. 41: 621-33.

We find a robust relationship between motor vehicle ownership, its interaction with legal heritage and obesity in OECD countries.  Our estimates indicate that an increase of 100 motor vehicles per thousand residents is associated with about a six percentage point increase in obesity in common law countries, whereas it has a much smaller or insignificant impact in civil law countries. These relations hold whether we examine trend data and simple correlations, or conduct cross-section or panel data regression analysis. Our results suggest that obesity rises with motor vehicle ownership in countries following a common law tradition where individual liberty is encouraged, whereas the link is small or statistically non-existent in countries with a civil law background where the rights of the individual tend to be circumscribed by the power of the state.

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