Drs. Timothy Halliday and Sally Kwak, economics professors at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, recently published a paper in Economics and Human Biology titled, “Weight Gain in Adolescents and Their Peers.” The article examines trends in adolescent body mass index (BMI) in a nationally representative dataset.
In their study, Halliday and Kwak document strong correlations in weight gain between adolescents and their friends, even after controlling for confounding factors such as race, sex and age. While these correlations may be indicative of pupils causing their peers to gain weight, the authors provide evidence that a substantial part of the correlations is a consequence of sorting on BMI.
In addition, they discuss many of the econometric issues in estimating such effects while accounting for growth spurts and difficulties in defining adolescent obesity. Halliday and Kwak discuss policy implications of such findings for school-based interventions to combat obesity. Their work contributes to a growing body of literature studying the impact of peers on student outcomes.
To view a copy of the abstract, visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ehb.2009.05.002.
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