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Psychol Sci. 2006 Jan;17(1):82-9.

Purchases of food in youth. Influence of price and income.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Illinois in Chicago, USA.


One way to increase choice of healthy over unhealthy behaviors is to increase the cost of less healthy alternatives or reduce the cost of healthier alternatives. The influence of price on purchases of healthy and unhealthy foods was evaluated in two laboratory experiments. In Experiment 1, thirty-two 10- to 12-year-old youth were given $5.00 and allowed to purchase multiple portions of a healthy food (fruit or vegetable) and a less healthy food (higher-fat snack). The price of one type of food varied from $0.50 to $2.50, while the price of the other type was held at $1.00. Increasing the price of a type of food reduced purchases of that type of food, but did not lead to substitution with the alternative type of food. In Experiment 2, twenty 10- to 14-year-old youth were given $1.00, $3.00, and $5.00 to purchase healthy and unhealthy foods. The price of each food was raised and lowered by 25% and 50%. Raising the price of healthy or unhealthy foods resulted in decreased purchases of those foods, and income available interacted with price to predict the pattern of substitution of alternative foods. These results show the potential for controlled laboratory studies of price and food purchases, and show that the substitution of healthier for unhealthy food is related to available money.

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