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Estimating the Effects of Friendship Networks on Health Behaviors of Adolescents

Author

Listed:
  • Jason M. Fletcher

    (Yale University)

  • Stephen L. Ross

    () (University of Connecticut)

Abstract

Researchers typically examine peer effects by defining the peer group broadly (all classmates, schoolmates, neighbors) because of the lack of friendship information in many data sources as well as to enable the use of plausibly exogenous variation in peer group composition across cohorts in the same school. This paper estimates the effects of friend's health behaviors on own health behaviors for adolescents. A causal effect of friend's health behaviors is identified by comparing similar individuals who have the same friendship opportunities because they attend the same school and make the same friendship choices, under the assumption that the friendship choice reveals information about an individual's unobservables. We combine this identification strategy with a cross-cohort, within school design so that the model is identified based on across grade differences in the clustering of health behaviors within specific friendship options. This strategy allows us to separate the effect of friends behavior on own behavior from the effect of friends observables attributes on behavior, a key aspect of the reflection problem. We use a partial equilibrium model of friendship formation in order to derive the conditions under which our identification strategy will provide consistent estimates, and the key assumption required for our strategy to be feasible is supported by the empirical patterns of across cohort variation that we observe in our data. Our results suggest that friendship network effects are important in determining adolescent tobacco and alcohol use, but are over-estimated in specifications that do not fully take into account the endogeneity of friendship selection by 15-25%.

Suggested Citation

  • Jason M. Fletcher & Stephen L. Ross, 2011. "Estimating the Effects of Friendship Networks on Health Behaviors of Adolescents," Working Papers 2011-011, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2011-011
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    File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Fletcher_Ross_2010_estimating-effects-friendship.pdf
    File Function: First version, March 3, 2011
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    Cited by:

    1. Fabio Landini & Natalia Montinari & Paolo Pin & Marco Piovesan, 2014. "Friendship Network in the Classroom: Parents Bias and Peer Effects," Discussion Papers 14-06, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    2. Stephen Billings & David Deming & Stephen L. Ross, 2016. "Partners in Crime: Schools, Neighborhoods and the Formation of Criminal Networks," Working Papers 2016-006, Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group.
    3. Landini, Fabio & Montinari, Natalia & Pin, Paolo & Piovesan, Marco, 2016. "Friendship network in the classroom: Parents bias on peer effects," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 56-73.
    4. Topa, Giorgio & Zenou, Yves, 2015. "Neighborhood and Network Effects," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D85 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Network Formation
    • I19 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Other
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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