IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/ehbiol/v6y2008i3p330-349.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

For better or worse: Relationship status and body mass index

Author

Listed:
  • Averett, Susan L.
  • Sikora, Asia
  • Argys, Laura M.

Abstract

Recent increases in the incidence of obesity and declines in marriage have prompted policymakers to implement policies to mitigate these trends. This paper examines the link between these two outcomes. There are four hypotheses (selection, protection, social obligation and marriage market) that might explain the relationship between marital status transitions and changes in Body Mass Index (BMI). The selection hypothesis suggests that those with a lower BMI are more likely to be selected into marriage. The protection hypothesis states that married adults will have better physical health as a result of the increased social support and reduced incidence of risky behavior among married individuals. The social obligation hypothesis states that those in relationships may eat more regular meals and/or richer and denser foods due to social obligations which may arise because of marriage. Finally, the marriage market hypothesis indicates that when adults are no longer in the marriage market they may not maintain a healthy BMI because doing so is costly and they are in a stable union--or on the other hand, adults may enhance their prospects in the marriage market by losing weight. Taking advantage of longitudinal data and complete marriage histories in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979, we estimate individual fixed effects models to examine associations between the change in log BMI and the incidence of overweight and obesity, and changes in relationship status controlling for the effects of aging and other respondent characteristics. We find no support for the marriage protection hypothesis. Rather we find evidence supporting the social obligation and marriage market hypotheses--BMI increases for both men and women during marriage and in the course of a cohabiting relationship. Separate analyses by race and ethnicity reveal substantial differences in the response of BMI to relationship status across these groups.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:6:y:2008:i:3:p:330-349
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1570-677X(08)00054-3
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
    2. Audrey Light, 2004. "Gender differences in the marriage and cohabitation income premium," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 41(2), pages 263-284, May.
    3. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, december.
    4. Waldron, Ingrid & Hughes, Mary Elizabeth & Brooks, Tracy L., 1996. "Marriage protection and marriage selection--Prospective evidence for reciprocal effects of marital status and health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 113-123, July.
    5. Lee Lillard & Constantijn Panis, 1996. "Marital status and mortality: The role of health," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 33(3), pages 313-327, August.
    6. Daniel Lichter & Zhenchao Qian & Leanna Mellott, 2006. "Marriage or dissolution? Union transitions among poor cohabiting women," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 43(2), pages 223-240, May.
    7. 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.
    8. Nabanita Datta Gupta & Nina Smith & Leslie S. Stratton, 2007. "Is Marriage Poisonous? Are Relationships Taxing? An Analysis of the Male Marital Wage Differential in Denmark," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 74(2), pages 412-433, October.
    9. Kate Antonovics & Robert Town, 2004. "Are All the Good Men Married? Uncovering the Sources of the Marital Wage Premium," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 317-321, May.
    10. 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.
    11. Leslie S. Stratton, 2002. "Examining the Wage Differential for Married and Cohabiting Men," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(2), pages 199-212, April.
    12. Chun, Hyunbae & Lee, Injae, 2001. "Why Do Married Men Earn More: Productivity or Marriage Selection?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 39(2), pages 307-319, April.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Ribar, David C., 2004. "What Do Social Scientists Know About the Benefits of Marriage? A Review of Quantitative Methodologies," IZA Discussion Papers 998, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Wilson, Chris M. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2005. "How Does Marriage Affect Physical and Psychological Health? A Survey of the Longitudinal Evidence," Economic Research Papers 269622, University of Warwick - Department of Economics.
    3. Jennifer Kohn & Susan Averett, 2014. "Can’t We Just Live Together? New Evidence on the Effect of Relationship Status on Health," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 35(3), pages 295-312, September.
    4. Susan Averett & Laura Argys & Julia Sorkin, 2013. "In sickness and in health: an examination of relationship status and health using data from the Canadian National Public Health Survey," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 599-633, December.
    5. Cornaglia, Francesca & Feldman, Naomi E., 2011. "Productivity, Wages, and Marriage: The Case of Major League Baseball," IZA Discussion Papers 5695, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    6. Madeline Zavodny, 2008. "Is there a ‘marriage premium’ for gay men?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 369-389, December.
    7. Bruno Jeandidier & Helen Lim, 2015. "Is there justification for alimony payments? A survey of the empirical literature," Working Papers hal-02105214, HAL.
    8. Ronald Mincy & Jennifer Hill & Marilyn Sinkewicz, 2009. "Marriage: Cause or mere indicator of future earnings growth?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(3), pages 417-439.
    9. Niklas Jakobsson & Andreas Kotsadam, 2016. "Does marriage affect men’s labor market outcomes? A European perspective," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(2), pages 373-389, June.
    10. William M. Rodgers & Leslie S. Stratton, 2010. "Male Marital Wage Differentials: Training, Personal Characteristics, And Fixed Effects," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 48(3), pages 722-742, July.
    11. Ahituv, Avner & Lerman, Robert I., 2005. "How Do Marital Status, Wage Rates, and Work Commitment Interact?," IZA Discussion Papers 1688, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Gerald Eric Daniels & Venoo Kakar & Anoshua Chaudhuri, 2017. "Racial Differences in Transitions to Marriage for Unmarried Mothers," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 38(3), pages 370-389, September.
    13. Alison Booth & Jeff Frank, 2008. "Marriage, partnership and sexual orientation: a study of British university academics and administrators," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 409-422, December.
    14. Shuai Chen & Jan C. Ours, 2018. "Subjective Well-being and Partnership Dynamics: Are Same-Sex Relationships Different?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 55(6), pages 2299-2320, December.
    15. Esfandiar Maasoumi & Daniel L. Millimet & Dipanwita Sarkar, 2009. "Who Benefits from Marriage?," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 71(1), pages 1-33, February.
    16. Stutzer, Alois & Frey, Bruno S., 2006. "Does marriage make people happy, or do happy people get married?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 326-347, April.
    17. Martin Dribe & Paul Nystedt, 2013. "Educational Homogamy and Gender-Specific Earnings: Sweden, 1990–2009," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(4), pages 1197-1216, August.
    18. Maryam Dilmaghani, 2019. "Sexual orientation and the ‘cohabitation gap’ in life satisfaction in Canada," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 17(4), pages 1163-1189, December.
    19. Petersen, Trond & Penner, Andrew M & Høgsnes, Geir, 2014. "From Motherhood Penalties to Husband Premia: The New Challenge for Gender Equality and Family Policy, Lessons from Norway," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt2hk409sk, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
    20. Matthijs Kalmijn, 2011. "The Influence of Men’s Income and Employment on Marriage and Cohabitation: Testing Oppenheimer’s Theory in Europe [L’impact du niveau de revenu et du travail des hommes sur le mariage et la cohabit," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 27(3), pages 269-293, August.

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ehbiol:v:6:y:2008:i:3:p:330-349. 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: . General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622964 .

    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 CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622964 .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.