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Social norms, ideal body weight and food attitudes

Listed author(s):
  • Fabrice Etilé

    (CORELA - Laboratoire de Recherche sur la Consommation - Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA))

This paper uses French data on ideal body weight and food attitudes to analyse the role of social norms in the individual's weight control problem. A proxy measure of social norms is calculated by averaging individual perceptions of the ideal Body Mass Index (BMI) over all observations within a reference group. Testing for different definitions of the reference group, we find that individual representations of ideal body shape are differentiated mainly along gender and age lines. Social norms regarding body shape have a significant effect on perceptions of ideal BMI only for those women who want to lose weight, with an elasticity close to 0.5. For many women and for all men, ideal BMI is almost exclusively determined by habitual BMI. Last, ideal BMI predicts a number of attitudes towards food, while social norms do not. These results suggest that promoting medical norms regarding body shape should have little effect on individual food attitudes.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Post-Print with number halshs-00754207.

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Date of creation: Sep 2007
Publication status: Published in Health Economics, Wiley, 2007, 16 (9), pp.945-966. <10.1002/hec.1251>
Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-00754207
DOI: 10.1002/hec.1251
Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://hal-pjse.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00754207
Contact details of provider: Web page: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/

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  1. Tomas J. Philipson & Richard A. Posner, 1999. "The Long-Run Growth in Obesity as a Function of Technological Change," Working Papers 9912, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  2. 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.
  3. George A. Akerlof, 1997. "Social Distance and Social Decisions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1005-1028, September.
  4. Andrew Grodner & Thomas Kniesner, 2005. "Labor Supply with Social Interactions: Econometric Estimates and Their Tax Policy Implications," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 69, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
  5. Susan Averett & Sanders Korenman, 1996. "The Economic Reality of the Beauty Myth," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(2), pages 304-330.
  6. James H. Stock & Motohiro Yogo, 2002. "Testing for Weak Instruments in Linear IV Regression," NBER Technical Working Papers 0284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Jay Bhattacharya & M. Kate Bundorf, 2005. "The Incidence of the Healthcare Costs of Obesity," NBER Working Papers 11303, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Chou, Shin-Yi & Grossman, Michael & Saffer, Henry, 2004. "An economic analysis of adult obesity: results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 565-587, May.
  9. Paquette, M.-C.Marie-Claude & Raine, Kim, 2004. "Sociocultural context of women's body image," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 59(5), pages 1047-1058, September.
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