In response to the dramatic increase in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes, numerous U.S. cities have recently enacted taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). This presentation provides an overview of a multi-year project to evaluate the effects of beverage taxes in numerous cities, including Berkeley and Oakland, CA; Philadelphia, PA; and Boulder, CO. We collected original data from stores and through street intercepts and phone surveys of consumers, in both the treated cities and nearby comparison areas. We examine numerous outcomes, including price (the pass-through of the tax), sales, cross-border shopping to evade the tax, and consumption. The results indicate that the effects of these taxes vary by city. We find the largest effects from the tax in Philadelphia; we estimate that the tax of 1.5 cents/ounce was fully passed through to consumers and reduced the frequency of adults’ soda consumption by 31%, but had no detectable effect on the beverage consumption of children.
John Cawley is a Professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management, and the Department of Economics, at Cornell University. He is co-Director of Cornell's Institute on Health Economics, Health Behaviors and Disparities. His research focuses on the economics of risky health behaviors; in particular, those that relate to obesity.
In addition to his affiliation with Cornell, John is the Erasmus Initiative Visiting Professor of Health Economics at the Erasmus School of Economics in the Netherlands and an Honorary Professor of Economics at the National University of Ireland, Galway. He is also a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a Research Fellow at the Tinbergen Institute in the Netherlands, and a Research Fellow of the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Germany. He was a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee "Prevention of Obesity in Children and Youth" and has served on advisory boards and expert panels for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government agencies.