Effects of Family, Friends, and Relative Prices on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption by African American Youths

Oleksandr Zhylyevskyy, Helen H. Jensen, Steven B. Garasky, Carolyn E. Cutrona, Frederick X. Gibbons
September 2010  [10-WP 515]

Facilitating healthy eating among young people, particularly among minorities who are at high risk for gaining excess weight, is at the forefront of the current policy discussions in the U.S. We investigate the effects of social interactions and relative prices on fruit and vegetable consumption by African American youths. We estimate a simultaneous equation ordered probit model of food intake using rich behavioral data from the Family and Community Health Study and price data from the Economic Research Service’s Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database. We find the presence of endogenous effects between a youth and parent, but not between a youth and friend. Lower relative prices of fruits and vegetables tend to increase intakes. Results suggest that health interventions targeting only one family member may be a cost-effective way to increase fruit and vegetable intake by African Americans because of the existence of “spillover” consumption effects between the youths and their parents.

Keywords: endogenous effects, fruit and vegetable consumption, healthy food choices, simultaneous equation ordered probit model, social interactions.

JEL Codes: I12, J15, C35

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