Intergenerational and Social Transmission of a Smoking Culture: Theory and Evidence

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

We develop and test a model of smoking initiation that focuses on the potential role of parents and social norms. Empirically, children whose parents smoke are themselves more likely to smoke. But researchers have not established that this simple correlation reflects a causal relationship. In our model, we allow children of non-smokers to start smoking as a rebellion against anti-smoking pressure from their parents and/or because they adopt a smoker role-model from outside the household. Similarly, we allow children of smokers to refrain from smoking because their parents educate them about the associated health risks and/or because they adopt a non-smoker role-model. We test the implications of our model with data of up to three generations from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID). Our evidence helps identify whether and how youth inherit a smoking culture, and informs policy efforts that aim to reduce the rate of youths' smoking initiation.

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Presented in Session 205: Intergenerational Relations