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The influence of body weight on social network ties among adolescents

Author

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  • Ali, Mir M.
  • Amialchuk, Aliaksandr
  • Rizzo, John A.

Abstract

Evidence of negative stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination towards obese individuals has been widely documented. However, the effect of a larger body size on social network ties or friendship formations is less well understood. In this paper, we explore the extent to which higher body weight results in social marginalization of adolescents. Using data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents, we estimate endogeneity-corrected models including school-level fixed effects that account for bi-directionality and unobserved confounders to ascertain the effect of body weight on social network ties. We find that obese adolescents have fewer friends and are less socially integrated than their non-obese counterparts. We also find that such penalties in friendship networks are present among whites but not African-Americans or Hispanics, with the largest effect among white females. These results are robust to common environmental influences at the school-level and to controls for preferences, risk attitudes, low self-esteem and objective measures of physical attractiveness.

Suggested Citation

  • Ali, Mir M. & Amialchuk, Aliaksandr & Rizzo, John A., 2012. "The influence of body weight on social network ties among adolescents," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 20-34.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:10:y:2012:i:1:p:20-34 DOI: 10.1016/j.ehb.2011.10.001
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Mir M. Ali & Aliaksandr Amialchuk & Francesco Renna, 2011. "Social Network and Weight Misperception among Adolescents," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 827-842, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mooney, Stephen J. & El-Sayed, Abdulrahman M., 2016. "Stigma and the etiology of depression among the obese: An agent-based exploration," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 1-7.
    2. Vander Wal, Jillon S., 2012. "The relationship between body mass index and unhealthy weight control behaviors among adolescents: The role of family and peer social support," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 395-404.
    3. Trogdon, Justin G. & Allaire, Benjamin T., 2014. "The effect of friend selection on social influences in obesity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, pages 153-164.
    4. Ali, Mir M. & Rizzo, John A. & Amialchuk, Aliaksandr & Heiland, Frank, 2014. "Racial differences in the influence of female adolescents’ body size on dating and sex," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, pages 140-152.
    5. Centola, Damon & van de Rijt, Arnout, 2015. "Choosing your network: Social preferences in an online health community," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, pages 19-31.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social networks; Adolescents; Body weight;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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