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Author: Cowell, Alexander Jonathon
Resulting in 1 citation.
1. Cowell, Alexander Jonathon
The Role of Schooling in Binge Drinking and Smoking
Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Economics, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1999.
Cohort(s): NLSY79
Publisher: UMI - University Microfilms, Bell and Howell Information and Learning
Keyword(s): Alcohol Use; Behavior; Cigarette Use (see Smoking); College Graduates; Education Indicators; Endogeneity; Income Dynamics/Shocks; Labor Economics; Taxes

Although researchers agree that the higher educated engage in healthier behaviors, they have not yet uncovered the reason for this empirical regularity. This dissertation directly addresses this question in order to determine appropriate policy interventions that may lead to healthier behavior. It investigates the role of schooling in binge drinking and smoking. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, I find that detailed semi-parametric controls for the endogeneity of schooling eliminate much of the effect of education on binge drinking. The effect of education on smoking, however, remains after controlling for endogeneity. The literature suggests two distinct theoretical explanations for the negative relationship between schooling and smoking, but it contains no practical guidelines for distinguishing between the competing explanations.

This dissertation develops a testable hypothesis that isolates the reason for the estimated relationship. The competing explanations are an efficiency mechanism and future opportunity costs. The efficiency explanation is that the more educated will allocate resources away from unhealthy behaviors into healthier behaviors, and so are less likely to smoke (allocative efficiency), and/or they are better producers of health and so are less likely to smoke (productive efficiency). The alternative explanation of future opportunity costs asserts that the more educated have higher expected future income and so have more to lose from smoking. To develop a testable hypothesis, I make use of degree effects--the phenomenon of a discontinuous jump in earnings once a person gets a degree. Only future opportunity costs will lead to degree effects appearing in the health behavior equations. Neither efficiency mechanism could cause such degree effects.

Several simulations are run to examine the effects of policies that operate via future opportunity costs on the health behaviors. These simulations show that the policies considered here do little to deter binge drinking. Moreover, despite the evidence that future opportunity costs deter smoking, only the extreme policy of forcing high school completion seems to have any impact on smoking. By comparison, raising cigarette taxes seems to have a relatively large effect on deterring both smoking and binge drinking.

Bibliography Citation
Cowell, Alexander Jonathon. The Role of Schooling in Binge Drinking and Smoking. Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Economics, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1999..