Heterogeneous peer effects and gender-based interventions for teenage obesity

This paper explores the role of gender heterogeneity in the social diffusion of obesity among adolescents and its policy implications. We propose a generalized linear social interaction model which allows for gender-dependent heterogeneity in peer effects through the channel of social synergy. We estimate the model using data on adolescent Body Mass Index and network-based interactions. Our results show that peer effects are gender-dependent, and male students are particularly responsive to the weight of their female friends. Our simulations indicate that female-tailored interventions are likely to be more effective than a gender-neutral approach to fight obesity in schools.

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