Multi-City Evaluation of Sugar-Sweetened Beverage (SSB) Taxes

2016-2019
Prepared for
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
sugar sweetened beverages

In the past decade, taxes on beverages with added sugars or artificial sweeteners have become perhaps the most widely adopted policy designed to improve diets and reduce diet-related chronic disease. Recommended by the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, and the American Public Health Association (among others), such taxes have been adopted by dozens of countries, including Mexico, Peru, Chile, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Norway, South Africa, India, the Philippines, and Samoa. Although the United States does not have a national tax on sweetened beverages, seven U.S. cities have adopted one since 2015.

This study, conducted by Mathematica staff in coordination with John Cawley at Cornell University and David Frisvold at the University of Iowa, evaluated the implementation and impact of these taxes in four cities, primarily in Philadelphia and Oakland, with additional analysis in San Francisco and Seattle. Its findings included the first-ever evidence of sweetened-beverage taxes’ effects on children. The research not only examined how residents’ consumption and purchases of taxed beverages changed after the taxes went into effect, but also examined how retailers responded to the taxes through changes in pricing, advertising, and product availability.