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Is poor fitness contagious?

  • Carrell, Scott E.
  • Hoekstra, Mark
  • West, James E.

The increase in obesity over the past 30 years has led researchers to investigate the role of social networks as a contributing factor. However, several challenges make it difficult to demonstrate a causal link between friends’ physical fitness and own fitness using observational data. To overcome these problems, we exploit data from a unique setting in which individuals are randomly assigned to peer groups. We find statistically significant positive peer effects that are roughly half as large as the own effect of prior fitness on current fitness. Evidence suggests that the effects are caused primarily by friends who were the least fit, thus supporting the provocative notion that poor physical fitness spreads on a person-to-person basis.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 95 (2011)
Issue (Month): 7 ()
Pages: 657-663

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:95:y:2011:i:7:p:657-663
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Scott E. Carrell & Frederick V. Malmstrom & James E. West, 2008. "Peer Effects in Academic Cheating," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 43(1).
  2. David J. Zimmerman, 2003. "Peer Effects in Academic Outcomes: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(1), pages 9-23, February.
  3. Stinebrickner, Ralph & Stinebrickner, Todd R., 2006. "What can be learned about peer effects using college roommates? Evidence from new survey data and students from disadvantaged backgrounds," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1435-1454, September.
  4. Scott E. Carrell & Richard L. Fullerton & James E. West, 2009. "Does Your Cohort Matter? Measuring Peer Effects in College Achievement," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(3), pages 439-464, 07.
  5. Bruce Sacerdote, 2001. "Peer Effects With Random Assignment: Results For Dartmouth Roommates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(2), pages 681-704, May.
  6. Ethan Cohen-Cole & Jason M. Fletcher, 2008. "Is obesity contagious?: social networks vs. environmental factors in the obesity epidemic," Risk and Policy Analysis Unit Working Paper QAU08-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  7. 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.
  8. David S. Lyle, 2007. "Estimating and Interpreting Peer and Role Model Effects from Randomly Assigned Social Groups at West Point," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(2), pages 289-299, May.
  9. Manski, C.F., 1991. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: the Reflection Problem," Working papers 9127, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  10. Michael Kremer & Dan Levy, 2008. "Peer Effects and Alcohol Use among College Students," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(3), pages 189-206, Summer.
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