Marriage, gender and obesity in later life
A large body of literature argues that marriage promotes health and increases longevity. But do these benefits extend to maintaining a healthy body weight, as the economic theory of health investment suggests they should? They do not. Using the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), I find that entry into marriage among both men and women aged 51–70 is associated with weight gain and exit from marriage with weight loss. I evaluate three additional theories with respect to the cross-sectional and longitudinal variation in the data. First, it may be that a broader set of shared risk factors (such as social obligations regarding meals) raises body mass for married couples. However, the shared risk factor model predicts that the intra-couple correlation should increase with respect to marital duration. Instead, it declines. Second, scholars have recently promoted a “crisis” model of marriage in which marital transitions, not marital status, determine differences in body mass. The crisis model is consistent with short-term effects seen for divorce, but not for the persistent weight gains associated with marriage or the persistent weight loss following widowhood. And transition models, in general, cannot explain significant cross-sectional differences across marital states in a population that is no longer experiencing many transitions, nor can it account for the prominent gender differences (in late middle-age, the heaviest group is unmarried women and the lightest are unmarried men). Third, I argue that pressures of the marriage market, in combination with gendered preferences regarding partner BMI, can account for all the longitudinal and cross-sectional patterns found in the data.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Strohschein, Lisa & McDonough, Peggy & Monette, Georges & Shao, Qing, 2005. "Marital transitions and mental health: Are there gender differences in the short-term effects of marital status change?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(11), pages 2293-2303, December.
- 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.
- Burkhauser, Richard V. & Cawley, John, 2008. "Beyond BMI: The value of more accurate measures of fatness and obesity in social science research," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 519-529, March.
- Raymond Fisman & Sheena S. Iyengar & Emir Kamenica & Itamar Simonson, 2006. "Gender Differences in Mate Selection: Evidence From a Speed Dating Experiment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(2), pages 673-697.
- Christine Himes, 2000. "Obesity, disease, and functional limitation in later life," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 37(1), pages 73-82, February.
- Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-255, March-Apr.
- repec:mpr:mprres:5512 is not listed on IDEAS
- Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1993.
"The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth,"
NBER Working Papers
4521, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Parsons, Donald O, 1977.
"Health, Family Structure, and Labor Supply,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 67(4), pages 703-712, September.
- Lund, Rikke & Due, Pernille & Modvig, Jens & Holstein, Bjørn Evald & Damsgaard, Mogens Trab & Andersen, Per Kragh, 2002. "Cohabitation and marital status as predictors of mortality--an eight year follow-up study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 673-679, August.
- Wilson, Sven E., 2002. "The health capital of families: an investigation of the inter-spousal correlation in health status," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(7), pages 1157-1172, October.
- Manzoli, Lamberto & Villari, Paolo & M Pirone, Giovanni & Boccia, Antonio, 2007. "Marital status and mortality in the elderly: A systematic review and meta-analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 77-94, January.
- repec:mpr:mprres:5511 is not listed on IDEAS
- 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.
- Meyler, Deanna & Stimpson, Jim P. & Peek, M. Kristen, 2007. "Health concordance within couples: A systematic review," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 64(11), pages 2297-2310, June.
- Goldman, Noreen & Korenman, Sanders & Weinstein, Rachel, 1995. "Marital status and health among the elderly," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 40(12), pages 1717-1730, June.
- Yuanreng Hu & Noreen Goldman, 1990. "Mortality Differentials by Marital Status: An International Comparison," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 27(2), pages 233-250, May.
- 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.
- Burkhauser, Richard V. & Cawley, John & Schmeiser, Maximilian D., 2009. "The timing of the rise in U.S. obesity varies with measure of fatness," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 307-318, December.
- Sankar Mukhopadhyay, 2008. "Do women value marriage more? The effect of obesity on cohabitation and marriage in the USA," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 6(2), pages 111-126, June.
- John Cawley, 2004. "The Impact of Obesity on Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
- Heather Brown & Arne Risa Hole & Jennifer Roberts, 2010. "Going the same 'weigh': spousal correlations in obesity in the UK," Working Papers 2010012, The University of Sheffield, Department of Economics, revised Jun 2010.
- Michael Rendall & Margaret Weden & Melissa Favreault & Hilary Waldron, 2011. "The Protective Effect of Marriage for Survival: A Review and Update," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 48(2), pages 481-506, May.
- Yannakoulia, Mary & Panagiotakos, Demosthenes & Pitsavos, Christos & Skoumas, Yannis & Stafanadis, Christodoulos, 2008. "Eating patterns may mediate the association between marital status, body mass index, and blood cholesterol levels in apparently healthy men and women from the ATTICA study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(11), pages 2230-2239, June.
- Averett, Susan L. & Sikora, Asia & Argys, Laura M., 2008. "For better or worse: Relationship status and body mass index," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 330-349, December.
- Felix Elwert & Nicholas Christakis, 2008. "Wives and ex-wives: A new test for homogamy bias in the widowhood effect," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 45(4), pages 851-873, November.
- Umberson, Debra, 1992. "Gender, marital status and the social control of health behavior," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 34(8), pages 907-917, April.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:10:y:2012:i:4:p:431-453. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.