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Smoke Signals: Adolescent Smoking and School Continuation

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  • Philip J. Cook
  • Rebecca Hutchinson

Abstract

This paper presents an exploratory analysis using NLSY97 data of the relationship between the likelihood of school continuation and the choices of whether to smoke or drink. We demonstrate that in the United States as of the late 1990s, smoking in 11th grade was a uniquely powerful predictor of whether the student finished high school, and if so whether the student matriculated in a four-year college. For economists the likely explanation for this empirical link would be based on interpersonal differences in time preference, but that account is called in question by our second finding -- that drinking does not predict school continuation. We speculate that the demand for tobacco by high school students is influenced by the signal conveyed by smoking (of being off track in school), one that is especially powerful for high-aptitude students. To further develop this view, we present estimates of the likelihood of smoking as a function of school commitment and other, more traditional variables. There are no direct implications from this analysis for whether smoking is in some sense a cause of school dropout. We offer some speculations on this matter in the conclusion.

Suggested Citation

  • Philip J. Cook & Rebecca Hutchinson, 2006. "Smoke Signals: Adolescent Smoking and School Continuation," NBER Working Papers 12472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12472
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Hersch, Joni & Pickton, Todd S, 1995. "Risk-Taking Activities and Heterogeneity of Job-Risk Tradeoffs," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 205-217, December.
    2. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    3. Nick Feltovich & Richmond Harbaugh & Ted To, 2002. "Too Cool for School? Signalling and Countersignalling," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 33(4), pages 630-649, Winter.
    4. Chaloupka, Frank, 1991. "Rational Addictive Behavior and Cigarette Smoking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 722-742, August.
    5. Joni Hersch & W. Kip Viscusi, 1990. "Cigarette Smoking, Seatbelt Use, and Differences in Wage-Risk Tradeoffs," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 25(2), pages 202-227.
    6. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2002. "Identity and Schooling: Some Lessons for the Economics of Education," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(4), pages 1167-1201, December.
    7. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-255, March-Apr.
    8. Becker, Gary S & Grossman, Michael & Murphy, Kevin M, 1991. "Rational Addiction and the Effect of Price on Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 237-241, May.
    9. Jonathan Gruber & Jonathan Zinman, 2001. "Youth Smoking in the United States: Evidence and Implications," NBER Chapters,in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 69-120 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. BARONE, Adriana & NESE, Annamaria, 2017. "Investment in Education, Obesity and Health Behaviours," CELPE Discussion Papers 146, CELPE - Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy, University of Salerno, Italy.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I2 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education

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