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Imitative Obesity and Relative Utility

Blanchflower D, Van Landeghem B & Oswald AJ (2009) Imitative Obesity and Relative Utility, Journal of the European Economic Association, 7 (2/3), pp. 528-538.

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 well determined, but there are grounds to take seriously the possibility of socially contagious obesity.

AuthorsBlanchflower David, Van Landeghem Bert, Oswald Andrew J
Publication date04/2009
PublisherWiley-Blackwell for the European Economic Association (EEA)
ISSN 1542-4766

Journal of the European Economic Association: Volume 7, Issue 2/3 (APR 2009)

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