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Going the same 'weigh': spousal correlations in obesity in the United Kingdom

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Heather BrownORCiD


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The obesity epidemic has received widespread media and research attention. However, the social phenomenon of obesity is still not well understood. Data from the British Household Panel Survey show positive and significant correlations in spousal body mass index (BMI). This paper explores the three mechanisms of matching on the marriage market, social learning, and shared environment to explain this correlation. We apply a novel method of testing for social learning by focusing on how the addition of individual and partner health and marriage length affects the correlation in spousal BMI. Results show the importance of matching in the marriage market in explaining correlated BMI outcomes. There is significant correlation in partner BMI even after controlling for own health, spouse health, marriage length, and regional effects suggesting evidence of a social influence. However, it does not appear to be a learning effect as spouse health and marriage length are insignificant.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Brown H, Hole AR, Roberts J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Applied Economics

Year: 2014

Volume: 46

Issue: 2

Pages: 153-166

Print publication date: 16/10/2013

ISSN (print): 0003-6846

ISSN (electronic): 1466-4283

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/00036846.2013.837575


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