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Happy house: Spousal weight and individual well-being

  • Andrew E. Clark

    (EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics, PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC), IZA - Institute for the Study of Labor - IZA)

  • Fabrice Etilé

    (EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics, PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC), ALISS - Alimentation et sciences sociales - INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique)

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. Semi-parametric regressions show that partner's BMI is, beyond a certain level, negatively correlated with own satisfaction. Own BMI is positively correlated with satisfaction in thin men, and negatively correlated with satisfaction 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. This is consistent with social contagion effects in weight. However, instrumental variable estimates suggest that the relationship is not causal, but rather reflects selection on the marriage market.

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Date of creation: Feb 2010
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Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00564836
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