Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1098321
 
 

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Is Obesity Contagious? Social Networks vs. Environmental Factors in the Obesity Epidemic


Ethan Cohen-Cole


University of Maryland - College Park

Jason M. Fletcher


Yale University - School of Public Health; University of Wisconsin - Madison - Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

April 2008

FRB of Boston Quantitative Analysis Unit Working Paper No. QAU08-2
Journal of Health Economics, Forthcoming

Abstract:     
This note's aim is to investigate the sensitivity of Christakis and Fowler's claim (NEJM July 26, 2007) that obesity has spread through social networks. It is well known in the economics literature that failure to include contextual effects can lead to spurious inference on social network effects. We replicate the NEJM results using their specification and a complementary dataset. We find that point estimates of the social network effect are reduced and become statistically indistinguishable from zero once standard econometric techniques are implemented. We further note the presence of estimation bias resulting from use of an incorrectly specified dynamic model.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 13

Keywords: Obesity, Peer Effects, Social Networks

JEL Classification: D10, D71, I19, J11, Z13

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Date posted: February 27, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Cohen-Cole, Ethan and Fletcher, Jason M., Is Obesity Contagious? Social Networks vs. Environmental Factors in the Obesity Epidemic (April 2008). FRB of Boston Quantitative Analysis Unit Working Paper No. QAU08-2; Journal of Health Economics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1098321 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1098321

Contact Information

Ethan Cohen-Cole (Contact Author)
University of Maryland - College Park ( email )
Robert H. Smith School of Business
Van Munching Hall
College Park, MD 20742
United States
Jason M. Fletcher
Yale University - School of Public Health ( email )
PO Box 208034
60 College Street
New Haven, CT 06520-8034
United States
University of Wisconsin - Madison - Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs ( email )
1180 Observatory Drive
Madison, WI 53706-1393
United States
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