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

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  • Eisenberg, Daniel
  • Golberstein, Ezra
  • Whitlock, Janis L.

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Eisenberg, Daniel & Golberstein, Ezra & Whitlock, Janis L., 2014. "Peer effects on risky behaviors: New evidence from college roommate assignments," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 126-138.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jhecon:v:33:y:2014:i:c:p:126-138
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2013.11.006
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Ajilore, Olugbenga & Amialchuk, Aliaksandr & Egan, Keven, 2016. "Alcohol consumption by youth: Peers, parents, or prices?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 23(C), pages 76-83.
    2. Palali, Ali & van Ours, Jan C., 2015. "Love conquers all but nicotine; spousal peer effects on the decision to quit smoking," CEPR Discussion Papers 10860, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Cowan, Benjamin W. & White, Dustin R., 2015. "The effects of merit-based financial aid on drinking in college," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 137-149.
    4. Hill, Andrew J., 2017. "The positive influence of female college students on their male peers," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 151-160.
    5. Elsner, Benjamin & Isphording, Ingo E., 2015. "Rank, Sex, Drugs, and Crime," IZA Discussion Papers 9478, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. repec:kap:ijhcfe:v:18:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10754-017-9221-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Gerald J. Pruckner & Thomas Schober & Katrin Zocher, 2017. "The company you keep - Health behavior among work peers," Economics working papers 2017-07, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    8. Dustin R. White & Benjamin W. Cowan & Jadrian Wooten, 2017. "March Madness: NCAA Tournament Participation and College Alcohol Use," NBER Working Papers 23821, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Ali Palali & Jan C. van Ours, 2016. "Love conquers all but nicotine; spousal peer e ffects on the decision to quit smoking," CPB Discussion Paper 333, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    10. repec:eee:socmed:v:185:y:2017:i:c:p:81-90 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Chih-Sheng Hsieh & Hans van Kippersluis, 2015. "Smoking Initiation: Peers and Personality," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 15-093/V, Tinbergen Institute.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Peer effects; Risky behaviors; Substance use; Alcohol;

    JEL classification:

    • I10 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - General
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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