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Peer-Effects on Childhood Obesity


  • Asirvatham, Jebaraj
  • Nayga, Rodolfo M. Jr.
  • Thomsen, Michael R.


This study investigates whether peers are a contributing factor in the increase in childhood obesity rates, and whether peer effects vary by race, gender and residential neighborhood. We control for the commercial food environment around schools and residence when estimating peer effects given that the food environment constitutes an important set of factors that have not been adequately measured and accounted for in previous studies. We find that the weight of peers within the same grade in a school significantly impacts body mass index (BMI) z-score of an individual student. A typical student’s BMI z-score increases when facing heavier peers and it decreases when facing lighter peers. The results show differential peer-effects across race and gender, but more so by gender than by race.

Suggested Citation

  • Asirvatham, Jebaraj & Nayga, Rodolfo M. Jr. & Thomsen, Michael R., 2013. "Peer-Effects on Childhood Obesity," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 150417, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea13:150417

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Charles F. Manski, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(3), pages 531-542.
    2. Carrell, Scott E. & Hoekstra, Mark & West, James E., 2011. "Is poor fitness contagious?: Evidence from randomly assigned friends," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7-8), pages 657-663, August.
    3. Jason Fletcher, 2012. "Peer influences on adolescent alcohol consumption: evidence using an instrumental variables/fixed effect approach," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 25(4), pages 1265-1286, October.
    4. Halliday, Timothy J. & Kwak, Sally, 2009. "Weight gain in adolescents and their peers," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 181-190, July.
    5. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1996:86:4:480-484_5 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Caroline Hoxby, 2000. "Peer Effects in the Classroom: Learning from Gender and Race Variation," NBER Working Papers 7867, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1994:84:7:1121-1126_2 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Asirvatham, Jebaraj & Nayga, Rodolfo M., Jr. & Thomsen, Michael R., 2012. "Peer-Effects In Obesity Among Public School Children: A Grade-Level Analysis," 2012 AAEA/EAAE Food Environment Symposium, May 30-31, Boston, MA 122732, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    9. Yakusheva, Olga & Kapinos, Kandice & Weiss, Marianne, 2011. "Peer effects and the Freshman 15: Evidence from a natural experiment," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 119-132, March.
    10. Trogdon, Justin G. & Nonnemaker, James & Pais, Joanne, 2008. "Peer effects in adolescent overweight," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(5), pages 1388-1399, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gwozdz, Wencke & Sousa-Poza, Alfonso & Reisch, Lucia A. & Bammann, Karin & Eiben, Gabriele & Kourides, Yiannis & Kovács, Éva & Lauria, Fabio & Konstabel, Kenn & Santaliestra-Pasias, Alba M. & Vyncke, , 2015. "Peer effects on obesity in a sample of European children," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 18(C), pages 139-152.
    2. Nie, Peng & Sousa-Poza, Alfonso & He, Xiaobo, 2015. "Peer effects on childhood and adolescent obesity in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 47-69.

    More about this item


    peer-effects; obesity; overweight; childhood obesity; Food Consumption/Nutrition/Food Safety; Health Economics and Policy; D10; D71; I10; Z13;

    JEL classification:

    • D10 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - General
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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