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Smoke Signals: Adolescent Smoking and School Continuation

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  • Philip J. Cook
  • Rebecca Hutchinson

Abstract

This paper presents an exploratory analysis using NLSY97 data of the relationship between the likelihood of school continuation and the choices of whether to smoke or drink. We demonstrate that in the United States as of the late 1990s, smoking in 11th grade was a uniquely powerful predictor of whether the student finished high school, and if so whether the student matriculated in a four-year college. For economists the likely explanation for this empirical link would be based on interpersonal differences in time preference, but that account is called in question by our second finding -- that drinking does not predict school continuation. We speculate that the demand for tobacco by high school students is influenced by the signal conveyed by smoking (of being off track in school), one that is especially powerful for high-aptitude students. To further develop this view, we present estimates of the likelihood of smoking as a function of school commitment and other, more traditional variables. There are no direct implications from this analysis for whether smoking is in some sense a cause of school dropout. We offer some speculations on this matter in the conclusion.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12472.

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Date of creation: Aug 2006
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Publication status: published as Bianchi, Marina (ed.) Advances in Austrian Economics Vol. 10, The Evolution of Consumption: Theories and Practices. 2007.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12472

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  1. Becker, Gary S & Grossman, Michael & Murphy, Kevin M, 1991. "Rational Addiction and the Effect of Price on Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 237-41, May.
  2. Joni Hersch & W. Kip Viscusi, 1990. "Cigarette Smoking, Seatbelt Use, and Differences in Wage-Risk Tradeoffs," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(2), pages 202-227.
  3. Nick Feltovich & Richmond Harbaugh & Ted To, 2002. "Too Cool for School? Signalling and Countersignalling," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(4), pages 630-649, Winter.
  4. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
  5. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1986. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State 41, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  6. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-55, March-Apr.
  7. Frank J. Chaloupka, 1990. "Rational Addictive Behavior and Cigarette Smoking," NBER Working Papers 3268, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Hersch, Joni & Pickton, Todd S, 1995. "Risk-Taking Activities and Heterogeneity of Job-Risk Tradeoffs," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 205-17, December.
  9. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2002. "Identity and Schooling: Some Lessons for the Economics of Education," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1167-1201, December.
  10. Jonathan Gruber & Jonathan Zinman, 2001. "Youth Smoking in the United States: Evidence and Implications," NBER Chapters, in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 69-120 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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