UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Research Co-Authored by ARE Professor Kristin Kiesel and ARE Ph.D. Alumna Mengxin Ji Evaluates the Effectiveness of Policies Restricting Sugar-Sweetened Beverages in High Schools

Jan. 21, 2021

While the obesity epidemic in California has been the target of public policy measures for over a decade, new data shows an upward trend in adolescent obesity. In a recent article published in AAEA Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, ARE Assistant Professor of Teaching Kristin Kiesel and ARE Ph.D. alumna Mengxin Ji analyzed the efficacy of policies targeting the restriction of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), a major contributor to obesity in all age groups. Specifically, the authors tested if the implementation of California Senate Bill 965, which restricted the sale of SSBs on school campuses, had the desired effect of decreasing consumption of SSBs among adolescents. Using store-level scanner data, Kiesel and Ji tested how the implementation of SB 965 in California high schools led to detectable compensation effects of soda purchases outside of school.

The reported results strengthen the notion that preferences for unhealthy foods will persist even after their availability is restricted in select environments. However, the authors are not arguing for the end of restrictive policies, stating:
“Our findings support the conclusion that restrictions on SSBs in schools and similarly selective restrictive policies might not sufficiently alter food and beverage preferences among adolescents. Rather than interpreting our results as a call to reverse these restrictions effectively in place nationwide since 2014, we want to highlight the need for more evidence-based policy making. A better understanding of how preferences are formed and might be changed can ultimately lead to the development of policies that combine incentives with information provision. Such comprehensive policy approaches will likely have a bigger overall impact on obesity prevention than restrictive policies alone.”


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