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Peer Effects in Breastfeeding: Evidence from the IFPS II Study

Iryna Topolyan (), Qian Wang () and Xu Xu ()
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Iryna Topolyan: Department of Economics, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221, U.S.A.,
Qian Wang: School of Business Administration, Georgia Southwestern State University, Americus, GA 31709, U.S.A.
Xu Xu: Department of Finance and Economics, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS 39762, U.S.A.

Review of Economics & Finance, 2015, vol. 5, 33-44

Abstract: We study breastfeeding in the context of social interactions, distinguishing between peer influences and intergenerational transfer of breastfeeding behavior. Using data from Infant Feeding Practices Study II, we estimate peer effects in breastfeeding decisions. There is strong evidence of peer effects, which may suggest the presence of the social multiplier in breastfeeding that could lead to an amplified social response to policy interventions. However, the prevalence of breastfeeding in a peer group needs to achieve some critical level in order for the peer effects to become significant. Knowing more than five peers who breastfed has a highly significant positive effect on the likelihood of breastfeeding at months three and six postpartum, and the duration of partial and exclusive breastfeeding. Our results suggest the presence of a positive externality in breastfeeding, which may result in an under-provision of the good (breastfeeding). Therefore, a Pigovian subsidy may be needed to promote breastfeeding and correct for the externality We also find evidence of inter-generational transmission of breastfeeding behavior, which may help explain why, despite active public health campaigns aimed at promoting breastfeeding, the prevalence of breastfeeding in the U.S. remains modest.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; Infant; Peer effects; Peer group; Social multiplier (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D10 D71 I19 J13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
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