Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Younghwan Song




public health, obesity, macro-economy, physical activity


It is widely understood that one of the most significant public health challenges in the United States is obesity which could rightly be considered an epidemic. Accompanied by billions of dollars in both explicit and implicit costs obesity places great strain on the health care system and economy as a whole. Years of scientific research has linked obesity to three main determinants: genetics over-eating and lack of physical activity. Recent research has introduced the study of the connection between the macro-economy and rates of physical activity thus linking economic variables to obesity. This paper investigates the connection between gasoline prices and physical activity as a potentially novel method to combat the high prevalence of obesity in the US. Using data from the American Time Use Survey this paper builds extensively on Sen (2012) which identified a positive association between gasoline prices and physical activity levels. Economically the relationship exists by way of a substitution effect as people drive less when gas prices are high and/or an income effect as people will become more frugal due to higher expenditures on gasoline. This paper expands beyond Sen by controlling for the long-term effect of gasoline prices and including data up until the year 2015. This paper finds that higher gasoline prices are associated minimally with higher overall average physical activity scores on the individual level. However this paper does not find a significant effect when analyzing specific activities such as running and bicycling. As a result there not enough clear evidence that policies such as gasoline taxes may prove valuable in the fight against the obesity epidemic.