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Happy house: Spousal weight and individual well-being

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  • Clark, Andrew E.
  • Etilé, Fabrice

Abstract

We use life satisfaction and Body Mass Index (BMI) information from three waves of the GSOEP to test for social interactions in BMI between spouses. Social interactions require that the cross-partial effect of partner's weight and own weight in the utility function be positive. Using life satisfaction as a utility proxy, semi-parametric regressions show that the correlation between satisfaction and own BMI is initially positive, but turns negative after some threshold. Critically, this latter threshold increases with partner's BMI when the individual is overweight. The negative well-being impact of own BMI is thus lower when the individual's partner is heavier, which is consistent with social contagion effects in weight. However, this relationship may also reflect selection on the marriage market or omitted variables, and it is difficult to think of convincing instruments that would allow causality to be clearly established.

Suggested Citation

  • Clark, Andrew E. & Etilé, Fabrice, 2011. "Happy house: Spousal weight and individual well-being," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 1124-1136.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:30:y:2011:i:5:p:1124-1136
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2011.07.010
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    Keywords

    Obesity; Subjective well-being; BMI; Social interactions;

    JEL classification:

    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty

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