13 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2008
Date Written: April 2008
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.
Keywords: Obesity, Peer Effects, Social Networks
JEL Classification: D10, D71, I19, J11, Z13
Suggested Citation: 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: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1098321 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1098321
By John Cawley