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Open Access Obese Peers’ Influence on Students’ BMI: Heterogeneity in Race and Sex


In this study, we investigate peer influence on obesity, with a focus on race and sex.


We conducted econometric analysis of longitudinal health data of 277,566 public school students, ages 5-13 years.


A percentage point increase in the proportion of obese students within the same grade increased a student’s BMI z-scores by about 4 one-thousandths of a standard deviation. On racial peers, the standard deviation increase in BMI z-score is 3.9 one-thousandths for Hispanics or Caucasians and 4.9 one-thousandths for African Americans. Influence of obese peers is nearly identical for boys and girls.


Such a small magnitude of obese peers’ estimate suggests that classroom peers do not play a substantial role in weight gain or loss in elementary schools.

Keywords: childhood obesity; race and health; sex and health; social networks

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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  • Health Behavior and Policy Review is a rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly bi-monthly publication that seeks manuscripts on health behavior or policy topics that represent original research, including papers that examine the development, advocacy, implementation, or evaluation of policies around specific health issues. The Review especially welcomes papers that tie together health behavior and policy recommendations. Articles are available through subscription or can be ordered individually from the Health Behavior and Policy Review site.
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