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Estimating the Effects of Friendship Networks on Health Behaviors of Adolescents


  • Jason M. Fletcher

    (Yale University and Columbia University)

  • Stephen L. Ross

    (University of Connecticut)


This paper estimates the effects of friends’ health behaviors, smoking and drinking, on own health behaviors for adolescents while controlling for the effects of correlated unobservables between those friends. Specifically, the effect of friends’ health behaviors is identified by comparing similar individuals who have the same friendship opportunities because they attend the same school and make similar 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 patterns. Finally, we use the estimated information on correlated unobservables to examine longitudinal data on the on-set of health behaviors, where the opportunity for reverse causality should be minimal. Our estimates for both behavior and on-set are very robust to bias from correlated unobservables.

Suggested Citation

  • Jason M. Fletcher & Stephen L. Ross, 2011. "Estimating the Effects of Friendship Networks on Health Behaviors of Adolescents," Working papers 2011-26, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2011-26

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Silva Portela, Maria Conceicao A. & Thanassoulis, Emmanuel, 2005. "Profitability of a sample of Portuguese bank branches and its decomposition into technical and allocative components," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 162(3), pages 850-866, May.
    2. Das, Abhiman & Ghosh, Saibal, 2006. "Financial deregulation and efficiency: An empirical analysis of Indian banks during the post reform period," Review of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(3), pages 193-221.
    3. Kumbhakar, Subal C & Sarkar, Subrata, 2003. " Deregulation, Ownership, and Productivity Growth in the Banking Industry: Evidence from India," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 35(3), pages 403-424, June.
    4. Sensarma, Rudra, 2006. "Are foreign banks always the best? Comparison of state-owned, private and foreign banks in India," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 23(4), pages 717-735, July.
    5. Sarkar, Jayati & Sarkar, Subrata & Bhaumik, Sumon K., 1998. "Does Ownership Always Matter?--Evidence from the Indian Banking Industry," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 262-281, June.
    6. Zhao, Tianshu & Casu, Barbara & Ferrari, Alessandra, 2010. "The impact of regulatory reforms on cost structure, ownership and competition in Indian banking," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 246-254, January.
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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


    Peer Effects; Friendship Networks; Adolescent Health; Smoking; Drinking; Cohort Study;

    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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