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Imitative Obesity and Relative Utility


Blanchflower, David G; Oswald, Andrew J; Van Landeghem, Bert (2008). Imitative Obesity and Relative Utility. Working paper series / Institute for Empirical Research in Economics No. 392, University of Zurich.

Abstract

If human beings care about their relative weight, a form of imitative obesity can emerge (in which people subconsciously keep up with the weight of the Joneses). Using Eurobarometer data on 29 countries, this paper provides cross-sectional evidence that overweight perceptions and dieting are influenced by a person’s relative BMI, and longitudinal evidence from the German Socioeconomic Panel that well-being is influenced by relative BMI. Highly educated people see themselves as fatter -- at any given actual weight -- than those with low education. These results should be treated cautiously, and fixed-effects estimates are not always welldetermined, but there are grounds to take seriously the possibility of socially contagious obesity.

Abstract

If human beings care about their relative weight, a form of imitative obesity can emerge (in which people subconsciously keep up with the weight of the Joneses). Using Eurobarometer data on 29 countries, this paper provides cross-sectional evidence that overweight perceptions and dieting are influenced by a person’s relative BMI, and longitudinal evidence from the German Socioeconomic Panel that well-being is influenced by relative BMI. Highly educated people see themselves as fatter -- at any given actual weight -- than those with low education. These results should be treated cautiously, and fixed-effects estimates are not always welldetermined, but there are grounds to take seriously the possibility of socially contagious obesity.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Working Paper Series > Institute for Empirical Research in Economics (former)
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:D1, I12, I31
Scope:Discipline-based scholarship (basic research)
Language:English
Date:November 2008
Deposited On:29 Nov 2011 22:47
Last Modified:08 Mar 2024 13:50
Series Name:Working paper series / Institute for Empirical Research in Economics
ISSN:1424-0459
OA Status:Green
Other Identification Number:merlin-id:5368