Risky Behavior Among Youths: An Economic Analysis

Jonathan Gruber

NBER Working Paper No. 7781
Issued in July 2000
NBER Program(s):Program on Children, Health Care Program

There are a host of potentially risky behaviors in which youth engage, which have important implications for both their well being as youth and their life prospects. The past decade has seen dramatic shifts in the intensity with which youths pursue these risky activities: for example, youth homicide fell by 40%; teen births decline by 20%; youth smoking rose by 33%; and marijuana use among youth virtually doubled. This paper, and the volume it introduces, explores the determinants and implications of risky behaviors by youths. I begin by reviewing perspectives on youth risk-taking from traditional rational-choice economics, developmental psychology, and behavioral economics. I then discuss both cross-sectional and time series evidence on risk-taking by youths, and how this compares to adults. I review the evidence on youth risk taking from the studies in this volume, and highlight the conclusions that (a) economic incentives and macroeconomic conditions are powerful predictors of risk taking by youths, (b) despite this, these factors are not very successful in predicting the dramatic time series swings we see in youth risk taking, and (c) risk taking by youths appears to have important implications for risky behaviors later in life. I also comment on the implications of these findings for policy, and for future economic research.

download in pdf format
   (362 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w7781

Published: Introduction to "Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis", Jonathan Gruber. in Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, Gruber. 2001

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Grossman and Markowitz w9244 I Did What Last Night?!!! Adolescent Risky Sexual Behaviors and Substance Use
Gruber Introduction to "Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis"
Levitt and Lochner The Determinants of Juvenile Crime
Cutler, Glaeser, and Norberg Explaining the Rise in Youth Suicide
Becker Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us