The Effect of Body Weight on Adolescent Sexual Activity

Daniel I. Rees, University of Colorado at Denver

Recent research suggests that overweight females suffer penalties in the labor and marriage markets, while overweight males do not. This study explores whether gender differences in the effect of body weight exist in what Cawley et al. (2006) labeled “the adolescent sex market.” Drawing on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we use individual fixed effects and instrumental variables (IV) identification strategies to estimate the relationship between body weight and sexual activity. We find evidence that increases in body weight lower the probability that female adolescents become sexually active. In contrast, there is little evidence of a causal relationship between body weight and sexual activity for male adolescents.

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Presented in Session 85: The Association Between Body Weight, Pubertal Timing and Adolescent Sexual Behavior