Does Migration to the U.S. Cause People to Smoke? Evidence Corrected for Selection Bias

Dean R. Lillard, Cornell University
Rebekka Christopoulou, Cornell University

We examine smoking decisions of people who migrate to the US and explore whether and how these differ from non-migrants. With a unique combination of retrospective smoking data from US and country of origin surveys we describe individual smoking trajectories over the life-course. We exploit these data to identify immigrant smoking behavior before they migrated and compare it to non-migrants' behavior. To correct for bias due to selective immigration, we instrument the migration decision using economic conditions during puberty and early adulthood and parents’ country of birth. We explicitly test and find evidence to support the healthy migrant hypothesis - those who choose to migrate are healthier than those who don’t. We also find that migration causes people to smoke. Correcting for selection bias, migrants are more likely to start to smoke and more likely to smoke in any given year of life than are observationally similar non-migrants.

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Presented in Session 31: Migration, Residential Mobility, and Population Health