Do peer effects have inegalitarian implications?

By now it is well known that hanging out with healthy peers predicts (causes?) good health, and unhealthy peers predict (cause?) bad health, for instance as it applies to weight and diet.  So what might that mean?

But perhaps medical care should indeed be given preferentially to those who, in receiving such care, will yield a better return on the investment? Maybe people with families, or people who are merely very popular, should get more care?

That is from Nicholas A. Christakis, who also notes:

Taking network effects seriously means that we should value socially connected people more. From a policy perspective—if not from a moral perspective—the connected should get more healthcare attention.

That is a speculation and a question, so I don’t think you should read him as necessarily endorsing that as a final conclusion.  There is more here, as pointed out by the still under-followed @jflier.

Indeed, once you take peer effects seriously, the popular become very busy people indeed, adding to their already-existing popularity-related busyness.  All sorts of things must be done to help them and to improve them, and for the same reason that people worried about Charles Barkley as a role model.  Of course on average the well-connected are successful and relatively well known or even famous, so the medical attention is not going to the poor or for instance to those unemployed whose weaker networks make it harder for them to get jobs.

I would stress the general point that utilitarian theories are less egalitarian than we often like to think.  The differential marginal utility of money point is very popular, and often true, and it does generally point in an egalitarian direction.  You hear somewhat less about many of the other implications of utilitarianism.


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