NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Asymmetric Social Interaction in Economics: Cigarette Smoking Among Young People in the United States, 1992-1999

Jeffrey E. Harris, Beatriz Lopez-Valcarcel

NBER Working Paper No. 10409
Issued in April 2004
NBER Program(s):   HC   HE

We analyzed cigarette smoking among people aged 15 - 24 in approximately 90,000 households in the 1992 - 1999 U.S. Current Population Surveys. We modeled social influence as an informational externality, in which each young person's smoking informs her peers about its coolness.' The resulting family smoking game,' with each sibling's smoking endogenous, may have multiple equilibria. We found that the pro-smoking influence of a fellow smoker markedly exceeded the deterrent effect of a non-smoking peer. The phenomenon of asymmetric social influence has implications for financial markets, educational performance, criminal behavior, and other areas of inquiry where peer influence is important.

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