Peer-Reviewed Publications


How Does the Affordable Care Act Affect Cigarette Consumption? –The Mechanism and Heterogeneity

with Yuqing Zheng and Steven Buck. Forthcoming. Journal of Consumer Affairs.

Abstract: We examine the average effect of the affordable care act (ACA) Medicaid expansion on cigarette consumption as well as heterogeneous effects by consumer types, depending on whether they use anti-smoking products and their baseline level of cigarette consumption. Using the Nielsen homescan consumer panel and generalized difference-in-differences (GDD) method, we find that anti-smoking products can induce cigarette smoking among moderate and heavy smokers. However, the ACA Medicaid expansion reduces cigarette smoking through channels other than anti-smoking products. As a net result, the ACA Medicaid expansion leads to a reduction in smoking. Light smokers are the main beneficiaries of ACA Medicaid expansion—their average cigarette consumption reduces by over one pack per month.


Grocery Food Taxes and U.S. County Obesity and Diabetes Rates

with Yuqing Zheng, Steven Buck, Diansheng Dong and Harry Kaiser. Health Economics Review, 11(1), 1-9.

Abstract: Grocery food taxes represent a stable tax revenue stream for state and municipal government during times of adverse economic shocks such as that observed under the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Previous research, however, suggests a possible mechanism through which grocery taxes may adversely affect health. Our objectives are to document the spatial and temporal variation in grocery taxes and to empirically examine the statistical relationship between county-level grocery taxes and obesity and diabetes. We collect and assemble a novel national dataset of annual county and state-level grocery taxes from 2009 through 2016. We link this data to three-year, county-level estimates based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on rates of obesity and diabetes and provide a nation-wide spatial characterization of grocery taxes and these two health outcomes. Using a county-level fixed effects estimator, we estimate the effect of grocery taxes on obesity and diabetes rates, also controlling for a subset of potential confounders that vary over time. We find a 1 percentage point increase in grocery taxes is associated with 0.588 and 0.215 percentage point increases in the county-level obesity and diabetes rates. Counties with grocery taxes have increased prevalence of obesity and diabetes. We estimate the economic burden of increased obesity and diabetes rates resulting from grocery taxes to be $5.9 billion. Based on this estimate, the benefit-cost ratio of removing grocery taxes across the United States only considering the effects on obesity and diabetes rates is 1.90.


Working Papers


Corona Beer in Coronavirus Pandemic: Impact of Unintentional Negative Name Association

with Yuqing Zheng, Shuoli Zhao and Wuyang Hu.

Abstract: As one of the major beer brands sold internationally, Corona beer unexpectedly shares the name of the recent COVID-19 disease, also known as the coronavirus. The consumer psychology and economics literature points to a loss in sales due to misinformation for an unintentional negative name association in general; yet the actual consequence remains ambiguous. Using Nielsen panel data of U.S. beer retail purchases encompassing periods both before and after the point of the outbreak, we treat the pandemic as a natural experiment to test the effect of negative name association on Corona beer sales. Results reveal that instead of following a negative prediction, each confirmed case of COVID-19 in a state led to $5.3 increase in weekly Corona beer sales compared with other major beer brands. Analysis using synthetic control and various identification strategies for the pandemic, including online search volume of relevant terms corroborates the main conclusion. Our results enlighten several marketing strategies in response to unexpected brand crises for agribusinesses and call for expanded work on the global impact of COVID-19 in food systems and value chain management.


Meet the Meatless: Demand for New Generation Plant-Based Meat Alternatives

Shuoli Zhao, Wuyang Hu and Yuqing Zheng.

Abstract: With the unique mimicry of the tastes and eating experiences of animal-based meat, the new generation plant-based meat alternatives (PBMAs) appeal to consumers outside the traditional vegetarian demographics. This study analyzes market expenditure data from January 2017 to July 2020 to evaluate the revealed demand for PBMAs in relation to animal-based meats. Results show that PBMAs are complements for beef and pork while substitutes for chicken, turkey, and fish. Although the current market demand for PBMAs is still incomparable with animal-based meats in size, the growth of PBMA sales and market share is significant, especially after the disruption in animal-based meat markets by the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the benefits of PBMAs for a more sustainable food system, this study sheds light on marketing strategies and policies towards the future of PBMAs and the fresh meat sector in general.


Working in Progress


1. Causal Effect of Grocery Sales Tax on Obesity

2. Spatial Grocery Tax Competition

3. Impacts of “Non-Meat” Labeling on the Meat-alternative Sales