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Peer effects on risky behaviors: New evidence from college roommate assignments

  • Eisenberg, Daniel
  • Golberstein, Ezra
  • Whitlock, Janis L.
Registered author(s):

    Social scientists continue to devote considerable attention to spillover effects for risky behaviors because of the important policy implications and the persistent challenges in identifying unbiased causal effects. We use the natural experiment of assigned college roommates to estimate peer effects for several measures of health risks: binge drinking, smoking, illicit drug use, gambling, having multiple sex partners, suicidal ideation, and non-suicidal self-injury. We find significant peer effects for binge drinking but little evidence of effects for other outcomes, although there is tentative evidence that peer effects for smoking may be positive among men and negative among women. In contrast to prior research, the peer effects for binge drinking are significant for all subgroups defined by sex and prior drinking status. We also find that pre-existing risky behaviors predict the closeness of friendships, which underscores the significance of addressing selection biases in studies of peer effects.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Health Economics.

    Volume (Year): 33 (2014)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 126-138

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:33:y:2014:i:c:p:126-138
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505560

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    1. Michael Kremer & Dan Levy, 2008. "Peer Effects and Alcohol Use among College Students," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(3), pages 189-206, Summer.
    2. Bruce Sacerdote, 2001. "Peer Effects With Random Assignment: Results For Dartmouth Roommates," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(2), pages 681-704, May.
    3. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser, 2007. "Social Interactions and Smoking," NBER Working Papers 13477, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Scott E. Carrell & Mark Hoekstra & James E. West, 2010. "Does Drinking Impair College Performance? Evidence from a Regression Discontinuity Approach," NBER Working Papers 16330, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. repec:mpr:mprres:4324 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Jonathan Guryan & Kory Kroft & Matt Notowidigdo, 2007. "Peer Effects in the Workplace: Evidence from Random Groupings in Professional Golf Tournaments," NBER Working Papers 13422, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Lundborg, Petter, 2006. "Having the wrong friends? Peer effects in adolescent substance use," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 214-233, March.
    8. Alejandro Gaviria & Steven Raphael, 2001. "School-Based Peer Effects And Juvenile Behavior," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 83(2), pages 257-268, May.
    9. Jason M. Fletcher, 2010. "Social interactions and smoking: evidence using multiple student cohorts, instrumental variables, and school fixed effects," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(4), pages 466-484.
    10. Powell, Lisa M. & Tauras, John A. & Ross, Hana, 2005. "The importance of peer effects, cigarette prices and tobacco control policies for youth smoking behavior," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(5), pages 950-968, September.
    11. David Card & Laura Giuliano, 2011. "Peer Effects and Multiple Equilibria in the Risky Behavior of Friends," NBER Working Papers 17088, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Manski, Charles F, 1993. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: The Reflection Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(3), pages 531-42, July.
    13. Jason Fletcher, 2012. "Peer influences on adolescent alcohol consumption: evidence using an instrumental variables/fixed effect approach," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 25(4), pages 1265-1286, October.
    14. Clark, Andrew E. & Loheac, Youenn, 2007. ""It wasn't me, it was them!" Social influence in risky behavior by adolescents," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(4), pages 763-784, July.
    15. Foster, Gigi, 2006. "It's not your peers, and it's not your friends: Some progress toward understanding the educational peer effect mechanism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(8-9), pages 1455-1475, September.
    16. Mayer, Adalbert & Puller, Steven L., 2008. "The old boy (and girl) network: Social network formation on university campuses," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 329-347, February.
    17. Daniel Eisenberg & Ezra Golberstein & Janis L. Whitlock & Marilyn F. Downs, 2013. "Social Contagion Of Mental Health: Evidence From College Roommates," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(8), pages 965-986, 08.
    18. David Marmaros & Bruce Sacerdote, 2006. "How Do Friendships Form?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(1), pages 79-119, 02.
    19. Christopher Carpenter & Carlos Dobkin, 2011. "The Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Public Health," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 133-56, Spring.
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