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Peer Effects and Alcohol Use Among College Students

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  • Michael Kremer
  • Dan M. Levy

Abstract

This paper examines a natural experiment in which students at a large state university were randomly assigned roommates through a lottery system. We find that on average, males assigned to roommates who reported drinking in the year prior to entering college had one quarter-point lower GPA than those assigned to non-drinking roommates. The 10th percentile of their college GPA is half a point lower than among males assigned non-drinking roommates. For males who themselves drank frequently prior to college, assignment to a roommate who drank frequently prior to college reduces GPA by two-thirds of a point. Since students who drink frequently are particularly influenced by frequent-drinking roommates, substance-free housing programs could potentially lower average GPA by segregating drinkers. The effect of initial assignment to a drinking roommate persists and possibly even grows over time. In contrast, students' college GPA is not influenced by roommates' high school grades, admission test scores, or family background. Females' GPAs are not affected by roommates' drinking prior to college. Overall, these findings are more consistent with models in which peers change preferences than models in which they change endowments.

Suggested Citation

  • Michael Kremer & Dan M. Levy, 2003. "Peer Effects and Alcohol Use Among College Students," NBER Working Papers 9876, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9876 Note: ED CH
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. George A. Akerlof, 1997. "Social Distance and Social Decisions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1005-1028, September.
    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. Becker, Gary S & Grossman, Michael & Murphy, Kevin M, 1994. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 396-418.
    4. David Laibson, 2001. "A Cue-Theory of Consumption," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, pages 81-119.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General

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