The economic impact of obesity on automobile fuel consumption

Sheldon H. Jacobson, Laura A. McLay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Obesity has become a major public health problem in the United States. There are numerous health implications and risks associated with obesity. One socio-economic implication of obesity is that it reduces passenger vehicle fuel economy (i.e., the miles per gallon achieved by automobiles, which include cars and light trucks driven for noncommercial purposes). This article quantifies the amount of additional fuel consumed (annually) in the United States by automobiles that is attributable to higher average passenger (driver and non-driver) weights, during the period from 1960 to 2002. The analysis uses existing driving data in conjunction with historical weight data. The results indicate that, since 1988, no less than 272 million additional gallons of fuel are consumed annually due to average passenger weight increases. This number grows to approximately 938 million gallons of fuel when measured from 1960, which corresponds to approximately 0.7% of the nation's annual fuel consumption, or almost three days of fuel consumption by automobiles. Moreover, more than 39 million gallons of fuel are estimated to be used annually for each additional pound of average passenger weight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-323
Number of pages17
JournalEngineering Economist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Engineering(all)


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