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Religious Participation and Risky Health Behaviors among Adolescents

  • Jennifer M. Mellor

    ()

    (Department of Economics, College of William and Mary)

  • Beth A. Freeborn

    ()

    (Department of Economics, College of William and Mary)

Previous studies have shown that adolescent religious participation is negatively associated with risky health behaviors like cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, and illicit drug use. One explanation for these findings is that religion directly reduces risky behaviors because churches provide youths with moral guidance or with strong social networks that reinforce social norms. An alternative explanation is that both religious participation and risky health behaviors are driven by some common unobserved individual trait. We use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and implement an instrumental variables approach to identify the effect of religious participation on smoking, binge drinking and marijuana use. Following Gruber (2005), we use a county-level measure of religious market density as an instrument. Religious market density has a strong positive association on adolescent religious participation, but not on secular measures of social capital. Upon accounting for unobserved heterogeneity, we find that religious participation continues to have a negative effect on illicit drug use.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, College of William and Mary in its series Working Papers with number 86.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: 20 Jul 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cwm:wpaper:86
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  1. Joseph G. Altonji & Todd E. Elder & Christopher R. Taber, 2005. "Selection on Observed and Unobserved Variables: Assessing the Effectiveness of Catholic Schools," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(1), pages 151-184, February.
  2. Rajeev Dehejia & Thomas DeLeire & Erzo F. P. Luttmer & Josh Mitchell, 2007. "The Role of Religious and Social Organizations in the Lives of Disadvantaged Youth," NBER Chapters, in: The Problems of Disadvantaged Youth: An Economic Perspective, pages 237-274 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Ross, Hana PhD & Chaloupka, Frank J. PhD, 2001. "The Effect of Cigarette Prices on Youth Smoking," University of California at San Francisco, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education qt8004m9n5, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, UC San Francisco.
  4. James H. Stock & Motohiro Yogo, 2002. "Testing for Weak Instruments in Linear IV Regression," NBER Technical Working Papers 0284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Christopher F Baum & Mark E. Schaffer & Steven Stillman, 2007. "Enhanced routines for instrumental variables/GMM estimation and testing," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 667, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 05 Sep 2007.
  6. Gruber Jonathan H, 2005. "Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-32, September.
  7. Jonathan Gruber, 2005. "Religious Market Structure, Religious Participation, and Outcomes: Is Religion Good for You?," NBER Working Papers 11377, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Laurence R. Iannaccone, 1998. "Introduction to the Economics of Religion," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1465-1495, September.
  9. 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.
  10. Brown, Sarah & Taylor, Karl, 2007. "Religion and education: Evidence from the National Child Development Study," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 439-460, July.
  11. Philip DeCicca & Donald Kenkel & Alan Mathios, 2002. "Putting Out the Fires: Will Higher Taxes Reduce the Onset of Youth Smoking?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(1), pages 144-169, February.
  12. Nonnemaker, James M. & McNeely, Clea A. & Blum, Robert Wm., 2003. "Public and private domains of religiosity and adolescent health risk behaviors: evidence from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(11), pages 2049-2054, December.
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