Racial differences in the influence of female adolescents’ body size on dating and sex
This paper investigates the effect of body size on dating and sexual experiences of white (non-Hispanic) and African American (non-Hispanic) female adolescents. Using data from Add-Health, we estimate the effects of obesity and BMI z-score on the probability of having been involved in a romantic relationship, having ever been touched in the genital area in a sexual way, and having ever engaged in sexual intercourse. We find that obese white teenage girls are less likely to have been in a romantic relationship compared to their non-obese counterparts. In addition, obese white girls are less likely to ever have had sex (intercourse) or to ever have been intimate. There are no systematic differences in relationship experiences and sexual behaviors between obese and non-obese black girls. Overall, the estimated relationships are very robust to common environmental influences at the school-level and to the inclusion of proxies for low self-esteem, attitudes toward sex and interviewer assessment of appearance and personality. Instrumental variables estimates and estimates from models with lagged weight status confirm the overall patterns.
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