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Testing for family influences on obesity: The role of genetic nurture

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  • John Cawley
  • Euna Han
  • Jiyoon Kim
  • Edward C. Norton

Abstract

A large literature has documented strong positive correlations among siblings in health, including body mass index (BMI) and obesity. This paper tests whether that is explained by a specific type of peer effect in obesity: genetic nurture. Specifically, we test whether an individual's weight is affected by the genes of their sibling, controlling for the individual's own genes. Using genetic data in Add Health, we find no credible evidence that an individual's BMI is affected by the polygenic risk score for BMI of their full sibling when controlling for the individual's own polygenic risk score for BMI. Thus, we find no evidence that the positive correlations in BMI between siblings are attributable to genetic nurture within families.

Suggested Citation

  • John Cawley & Euna Han & Jiyoon Kim & Edward C. Norton, 2019. "Testing for family influences on obesity: The role of genetic nurture," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(7), pages 937-952, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:28:y:2019:i:7:p:937-952
    DOI: 10.1002/hec.3889
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    3. Barban, Nicola & De Cao, Elisabetta & Oreffice, Sonia & Quintana-Domeque, Climent, 2021. "The effect of education on spousal education: A genetic approach," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 71(C).
    4. Jaakko Pehkonen & Jutta Viinikainen & Jaana T. Kari & Petri Böckerman & Terho Lehtimäki & Olli Raitakari, 2021. "Birth weight and adult income: An examination of mediation through adult height and body mass," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 30(10), pages 2383-2398, September.

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