Peer Effects, Fast Food Consumption and Adolescent Weight Gain
This paper aims at opening the black box of peer effects in adolescent weight gain. Using Add Health data on secondary schools in the U.S., we investigate whether these effects partly flow through the eating habits channel. Adolescents are assumed to interact through a friendship social network. We first propose a social interaction model of fast food consumption using a generalized spatial autoregressive approach. We exploit results by Bramoullé, Djebbari and Fortin (2009) which show that intransitive links within a network (i.e., a friend of one of my friends is not my friend) help identify peer effects. The model is estimated using maximum likelihood and generalized 2SLS strategies. We also estimate a panel dynamic weight gain production function relating an adolescent’s Body Mass Index (BMI) to his current fast food consumption and his lagged BMI level. Results show that there are positive significant peer effects in fast food consumption among adolescents belonging to a same friendship school network. The estimated social multiplier is 1.59. Our results also suggest that, at the network level, an extra day of weekly fast food restaurant visits increases BMI by 2.4%, when peer effects are taken into account.
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