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Social networks and vaccination decisions

  • Neel Rao
  • Markus M. Möbius
  • Tanya Rosenblat

We combine information on social networks with medical records and survey data in order to examine how friends affect one’s decision to get vaccinated against the flu. The random assignment of undergraduates to residential halls at a large private university allows us to estimate how peer effects influence health beliefs and vaccination choices. Our results indicate that social exposure to medical information raises people’s perceptions of the benefits of immunization. The average student’s belief about the vaccine’s health value increases by $5.00 when an additional 10 percent of her friends are assigned to residences that host inoculation clinics. Among students with no recent flu experience, a 10 percent rise in the number of friends living in residences with clinics raises cumulative valuations of the vaccine by $10.92, with 85 percent of this increase attributable to heightened perceptions about the medical benefits of immunization. We also find evidence of positive peer effects on individuals’ vaccination decisions. A student becomes up to 8.3 percentage points more likely to get immunized if an additional 10 percent of her friends receive flu shots. Furthermore, the excess clustering of friends at inoculation clinics suggests that students coordinate their vaccination decisions with their friends.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in its series Working Papers with number 07-12.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedbwp:07-12
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  1. Manski, C.F., 1991. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: the Reflection Problem," Working papers 9127, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  2. Marmaros, David & Sacerdote, Bruce, 2002. "Peer and social networks in job search," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(4-5), pages 870-879, May.
  3. Michael Kremer & Edward Miguel, 2004. "The Illusion of Sustainability," NBER Working Papers 10324, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Bruce Sacerdote, 2000. "Peer Effects with Random Assignment: Results for Dartmouth Roommates," NBER Working Papers 7469, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Ellison, Glenn & Glaeser, Edward L, 1997. "Geographic Concentration in U.S. Manufacturing Industries: A Dartboard Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(5), pages 889-927, October.
  6. Anne C. Case & Lawrence F. Katz, 1991. "The Company You Keep: The Effects of Family and Neighborhood on Disadvantaged Youths," NBER Working Papers 3705, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Evans, William N & Oates, Wallace E & Schwab, Robert M, 1992. "Measuring Peer Group Effects: A Study of Teenage Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 966-91, October.
  8. Gordon C. Winston & David J. Zimmerman, 2003. "Peer Effects in Higher Education," Williams Project on the Economics of Higher Education DP-64, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    • Gordon Winston & David Zimmerman, 2004. "Peer Effects in Higher Education," NBER Chapters, in: College Choices: The Economics of Where to Go, When to Go, and How to Pay For It, pages 395-424 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Deri, Catherine, 2005. "Social networks and health service utilization," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 1076-1107, November.
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