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

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  • Ethan Cohen-Cole
  • Jason M. Fletcher

Abstract

This note’s aim is to investigate the sensitivity of Christakis and Fowler’s claim (NEJM July 26, 2007) 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

Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its series Risk and Policy Analysis Unit Working Paper with number QAU08-2.

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Date of creation: 2008
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbqu:qau08-2

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Keywords: Obesity;

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  1. Yann Bramoullé & Habiba Djebbari & Bernard Fortin, 2007. "Identification of Peer Effects through Social Networks," Cahiers de recherche 0705, CIRPEE.
  2. Durlauf,S.N., 2003. "Neighborhood effects," Working papers 17, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  3. 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.
  4. Manski, Charles F, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 531-42, July.
  5. Krauth, Brian V., 2006. "Simulation-based estimation of peer effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 133(1), pages 243-271, July.
  6. Lee, Lung-fei, 2007. "Identification and estimation of econometric models with group interactions, contextual factors and fixed effects," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 140(2), pages 333-374, October.
  7. Shapiro, Jesse & Glaeser, Edward & Cutler, David, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese," Scholarly Articles 2640583, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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