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For better or worse: Relationship status and body mass index

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  • Averett, Susan L.
  • Sikora, Asia
  • Argys, Laura M.

Abstract

Recent increases in the incidence of obesity and declines in marriage have prompted policymakers to implement policies to mitigate these trends. This paper examines the link between these two outcomes. There are four hypotheses (selection, protection, social obligation and marriage market) that might explain the relationship between marital status transitions and changes in Body Mass Index (BMI). The selection hypothesis suggests that those with a lower BMI are more likely to be selected into marriage. The protection hypothesis states that married adults will have better physical health as a result of the increased social support and reduced incidence of risky behavior among married individuals. The social obligation hypothesis states that those in relationships may eat more regular meals and/or richer and denser foods due to social obligations which may arise because of marriage. Finally, the marriage market hypothesis indicates that when adults are no longer in the marriage market they may not maintain a healthy BMI because doing so is costly and they are in a stable union--or on the other hand, adults may enhance their prospects in the marriage market by losing weight. Taking advantage of longitudinal data and complete marriage histories in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, we estimate individual fixed effects models to examine associations between the change in log BMI and the incidence of overweight and obesity, and changes in relationship status controlling for the effects of aging and other respondent characteristics. We find no support for the marriage protection hypothesis. Rather we find evidence supporting the social obligation and marriage market hypotheses--BMI increases for both men and women during marriage and in the course of a cohabiting relationship. Separate analyses by race and ethnicity reveal substantial differences in the response of BMI to relationship status across these groups.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Economics & Human Biology.

Volume (Year): 6 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3 (December)
Pages: 330-349

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Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:6:y:2008:i:3:p:330-349

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622964

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Keywords: Marriage Cohabitation BMI Overweight Obesity;

References

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  1. John Cawley & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2006. "Beyond BMI: The Value of More Accurate Measures of Fatness and Obesity in Social Science Research," NBER Working Papers 12291, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Nina Smith & Leslie S. Stratton, 2007. "Is Marriage Poisonous? Are Relationships Taxing? An Analysis of the Male Marital Wage Differential in Denmark," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 412-433, October.
  3. Chun, Hyunbae & Lee, Injae, 2001. "Why Do Married Men Earn More: Productivity or Marriage Selection?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(2), pages 307-19, April.
  4. Sobal, Jeffery & Rauschenbach, Barbara & Frongillo, Edward A., 2003. "Marital status changes and body weight changes: a US longitudinal analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 56(7), pages 1543-1555, April.
  5. Daniel Lichter & Zhenchao Qian & Leanna Mellott, 2006. "Marriage or dissolution? Union transitions among poor cohabiting women," Demography, Springer, vol. 43(2), pages 223-240, May.
  6. Audrey Light, 2004. "Gender differences in the marriage and cohabitation income premium," Demography, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 263-284, May.
  7. Lee Lillard & Constantijn Panis, 1996. "Marital status and mortality: The role of health," Demography, Springer, vol. 33(3), pages 313-327, August.
  8. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, May.
  9. Kate Antonovics & Robert Town, 2004. "Are All the Good Men Married? Uncovering the Sources of the Marital Wage Premium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 317-321, May.
  10. Leslie S. Stratton, 2002. "Examining the Wage Differential for Married and Cohabiting Men," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(2), pages 199-212, April.
  11. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2000. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," NBER Working Papers 7487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Joni Hersch & Leslie S. Stratton, 2000. "Household specialization and the male marriage wage premium," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 54(1), pages 78-94, October.
  13. Waldron, Ingrid & Hughes, Mary Elizabeth & Brooks, Tracy L., 1996. "Marriage protection and marriage selection--Prospective evidence for reciprocal effects of marital status and health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 113-123, July.
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Citations

Blog mentions

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  1. The Divorce Diet
    by Felix Salmon in Felix Salmon on 2010-07-14 01:12:00
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Cited by:
  1. Susan Averett & Laura Argys & Julia Sorkin, 2013. "In sickness and in health: an examination of relationship status and health using data from the Canadian National Public Health Survey," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 599-633, December.
  2. Pierre-André Chiappori & Sonia Oreffice & Climent Quintana, 2009. "Fatter Attraction: Anthropometric and Socioeconomic Characteristics in the Marriage Market," Working Papers 2009-34, FEDEA.
  3. Averett, Susan L. & Argys, Laura & Kohn, Jennifer L., 2012. "Immigration, Obesity and Labor Market Outcomes in the UK," IZA Discussion Papers 6454, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Oreffice, Sonia & Quintana-Domeque, Climent, 2010. "Anthropometry and socioeconomics among couples: Evidence in the United States," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 373-384, December.
  5. Michèle Belot & Jan Fidrmuc, 2009. "Anthropometry of Love Height and Gender Asymmetries in Interethnic Marriages," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series wp950, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  6. Oreffice, Sonia, 2014. "Season of Birth and Marital Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 8348, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Wilson, Sven E., 2012. "Marriage, gender and obesity in later life," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 431-453.
  8. Climent Quintana Domeque & Sonia Oreffice, 2010. "Anthropometry and socioeconomics in the couple: evidence from the PSID," Working Papers. Serie AD 2010-16, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  9. Rapp, Ingmar & Schneider, Björn, 2013. "The impacts of marriage, cohabitation and dating relationships on weekly self-reported physical activity in Germany: A 19-year longitudinal study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 197-203.
  10. Nagata, Jason M. & Valeggia, Claudia R. & Barg, Frances K. & Bream, Kent D.W., 2009. "Body mass index, socio-economic status and socio-behavioral practices among Tz'utujil Maya women," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 96-106, March.
  11. Sonia Oreffice & Climent Quintana-Domeque, 2009. "Fatter Attraction: Marital Status and the Relationship between BMI and Labor Supply," Working Papers 2009.116, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
  12. Daouli, Joan & Davillas, Apostolos & Demoussis, Michael & Giannakopoulos, Nicholas, 2014. "Obesity persistence and duration dependence: Evidence from a cohort of US adults (1985–2010)," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 12(C), pages 30-44.
  13. Clark, A.; & Etilé, F.;, 2010. "Happy House: Spousal weight and individual well-being," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 10/10, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.

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