Schoolmates, peer effects, and adolescent weight status


Renna, Francesco; Grafova, Irina; B; & Thakur, Nidhi (2008). Schoolmates, peer effects, and adolescent weight status. 2008 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


The goal of this study is to analyze the impact of peer pressure from schoolmates on the weight status of adolescents. The study of these social interactions is important because the impact of any school based program aiming at reducing the prevalence of obesity among teenagers may be amplified by peer pressure (Social multiplier). This study utilizes Wave I, II, and III of the Add Health dataset. We construct two alternative measures of a peer group: (1) the average BMI of students who are in the same school and in the same school year as a respondent adolescent, and (2) the average BMI of students who are in the same school but one year above the respondent adolescent. Previous studies have shown that peer measure at the school level is less likely to be subject to the contextual effects and the bi directionality of the peer relationship. However, students in the same school could share similar unobserved characteristics that can also affect the body weight (correlated effect). We address this issue by pooling the data from three Waves to obtain school fixed effects estimators. Since the BMI is not age neutral, we compute the BMI percentiles using the 2000 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention BMI for age charts. We run the regressions separately by gender and we control for individual characteristics (race, ethnicity, and age), behavioral choices (drinking, smoking, and exercising), and family background (family income, parents’ obesity status, maternal education, and maternal employment).


Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2008 Add Health Users Conference


Renna, Francesco
Grafova, Irina
Thakur, Nidhi

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID