Prevalence of obesity and other diet-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have continued to rise for decades in the United States. In addition to adverse health consequences, these diseases have led to substantial economic costs in the form of medical expenses and productivity losses. To address the rise in NCDs, excise taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are increasingly proposed and implemented as a policy tool for improving dietary intake and population health. To date, few empirical studies have evaluated the potential unintended economic effects of these taxes. In this paper, we examine the impact of the Philadelphia, PA, sweetened beverage tax (applied to both SSBs and artificially sweetened beverages) on employment in key industries that sell sweetened beverages as well as on net total employment. Drawing on monthly employment count data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from January 2012 through June 2019, we conducted a synthetic control analysis of total, private sector, limited-service restaurant, and convenience store employment. The synthetic controls reproduced nearly identical pre-tax employment trends to Philadelphia and had similar values of important predictors. In the post-tax period, Philadelphia employment was not lower, on average, than the synthetic control employment for each outcome. Placebo tests suggested a null effect of the tax, and the results were robust to changes in predictors and control site criteria. Overall, we did not find that the sweetened beverage tax resulted in job losses up to two and a half years after the tax was implemented. These findings are consistent with other peer-reviewed modeling and empirical papers on the employment and unemployment effects of sweetened beverage taxes.
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