Taxes (Not Subsidies) Control Calorie Intake

It’s not sur­pris­ing to dis­cov­er that in an exper­i­ment look­ing at how taxes and sub­sidies can be used to influ­ence health­i­er food pur­chases it was the tax­ing of unhealthy food that improved choices, not the sub­sid­isa­tion of healthy options.

Strangely, though, it turns out that the health food sub­sidies actu­ally worsened choices (the study the­or­ises that the shop­pers used the ‘saved’ money to treat them­selves, while still pur­chas­ing the unhealthy goods).

Taxes were more effect­ive in redu­cing cal­or­ies pur­chased over sub­sides. Spe­cific­ally, tax­ing unhealthy foods reduced over­all cal­or­ies pur­chased, while cut­ting the pro­por­tion of fat and car­bo­hydrates and upping the pro­por­tion of pro­tein in a typ­ic­al week’s gro­cer­ies.

By con­trast, sub­sid­iz­ing the prices of healthy food actu­ally increased over­all cal­or­ies pur­chased without chan­ging the nutri­tion­al value at all. It appears that moth­ers took the money they saved on sub­sid­ized fruits and veget­ables and treated the fam­ily to less healthy altern­at­ives, such as chips and soda pop. Taxes had basic­ally the oppos­ite effect, shift­ing spend­ing from less healthy to health­i­er choices.

via Nudge