The Effects of Graduation Requirements on Risky Health Behaviors of High School Students

Zhuang Hao, Benjamin W. Cowan

NBER Working Paper No. 23803
Issued in September 2017
NBER Program(s):Children, Economics of Education, Health Economics

Previous studies have shown that years of formal schooling attained affects health behaviors, but little is known about how the stringency of academic programs affects such behaviors, especially among youth. Using national survey data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS), we study the effects of mathematics and science high-school graduation requirements (HSGR) on high school students’ risky health behaviors--specifically on drinking, smoking, and marijuana use. We find that an increase in mathematics and science HSGR has significant negative impacts on alcohol consumption among high-school students, especially males and non-white students. The effects of math and science HSGR on smoking and marijuana use are also negative but generally less precisely estimated. Our results suggest that curriculum design may have potential as a policy tool to curb youth drinking.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23803

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