Testing for family influences on obesity: The role of genetic nurture

Publication Abstract

Cawley, John, Euna Han, Jiyoon Kim, and Edward Norton. 2019. "Testing for family influences on obesity: The role of genetic nurture." Health Economics, 28(7): 937-952.

A large literature has documented strong positive correlations among siblings in health, including body mass index (BMI) and obesity. This paper tests whether that is explained by a specific type of peer effect in obesity: genetic nurture. Specifically, we test whether an individual's weight is affected by the genes of their sibling, controlling for the individual's own genes. Using genetic data in Add Health, we find no credible evidence that an individual's BMI is affected by the polygenic risk score for BMI of their full sibling when controlling for the individual's own polygenic risk score for BMI. Thus, we find no evidence that the positive correlations in BMI between siblings are attributable to genetic nurture within families.


obesity health family genetics body mass index (BMI) genetic nurture peer effects sibling

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