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Is obesity contagious? Social networks vs. environmental factors in the obesity epidemic

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  • Cohen-Cole, Ethan
  • Fletcher, Jason M.

Abstract

This note's aim is to investigate the sensitivity of Christakis and Fowler's claim [Christakis, N., Fowler, J., 2007. The spread of obesity in a large social network over 32 years. The New England Journal of Medicine 357, 370-379] that obesity has spread through social networks. It is well known in the economics literature that failure to include contextual effects can lead to spurious inference on "social network effects." We replicate the NEJM results using their specification and a complementary dataset. We find that point estimates of the "social network effect" are reduced and become statistically indistinguishable from zero once standard econometric techniques are implemented. We further note the presence of estimation bias resulting from use of an incorrectly specified dynamic model.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Health Economics.

Volume (Year): 27 (2008)
Issue (Month): 5 (September)
Pages: 1382-1387

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:27:y:2008:i:5:p:1382-1387

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505560

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  1. Bramoullé, Yann & Djebbari, Habiba & Fortin, Bernard, 2007. "Identification of Peer Effects through Social Networks," IZA Discussion Papers 2652, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Lee, Lung-fei, 2007. "Identification and estimation of econometric models with group interactions, contextual factors and fixed effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 140(2), pages 333-374, October.
  3. Krauth, Brian V., 2006. "Simulation-based estimation of peer effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 133(1), pages 243-271, July.
  4. Durlauf,S.N., 2003. "Neighborhood effects," Working papers, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems 17, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  5. Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  6. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
  7. Manski, Charles F, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 531-42, July.
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