Is Poor Fitness Contagious? Evidence from Randomly Assigned Friends

25 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2010 Last revised: 30 Oct 2010

See all articles by Scott E. Carrell

Scott E. Carrell

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics

Mark Hoekstra

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics

James E. West

Baylor University - Department of Economics

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Date Written: October 27, 2010

Abstract

The increase in obesity over the past thirty years has led researchers to investigate the role of social networks as a contributing factor. However, several challenges make it difficult to demonstrate a causal link between friends’ physical fitness and own fitness using observational data. To overcome these problems, we exploit data from a unique setting in which individuals are randomly assigned to peer groups. We find statistically significant peer effects that are 40 to 70 percent as large as the own effect of prior fitness scores on current fitness outcomes. Evidence suggests that the effects are caused primarily by friends who were the least fit, thus supporting the provocative notion that poor physical fitness spreads on a person-to-person basis.

Keywords: Health, Fitness, Obesity, Peer Effects, Social Networks

JEL Classification: I10, D62

Suggested Citation

Carrell, Scott E. and Hoekstra, Mark and West, James E., Is Poor Fitness Contagious? Evidence from Randomly Assigned Friends (October 27, 2010). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1629877 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1629877

Scott E. Carrell

University of California, Davis - Department of Economics ( email )

One Shields Drive
Davis, CA 95616-8578
United States

Mark Hoekstra (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Economics ( email )

4714 Posvar Hall
230 S. Bouquet Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.pitt.edu/facpage.php?uid=108

James E. West

Baylor University - Department of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 98003
Waco, TX 76798-8003
United States
254-710-6126 (Phone)

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