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 (BHPS) show positive and significant correlations in spousal body mass index (BMI).
This article explores the three mechanisms of matching in 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 the spouse health and marriage length are insignificant.