Estimating the Causal Effect of Parental Smoking on Youth Uptake

Dean R. Lillard, Cornell University

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., contributing to more than 400,000 deaths annually. A recent public health initiative, Healthy People 2010, aims to cut the prevalence of smoking among adults in half, from the current rate of about 24 percent to 12 percent. Recent policy debates have tended to focus on how to prevent youth from starting to smoke. Embedded in all of the debates about youth smoking is a stylized fact that has yet to be established in a systematic way - whether the strong correlation between parental smoking and youth smoking prevalence is causal or not. The answer to this question seems, on its face, to be obvious. In this paper I use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to estimate whether parental smoking causes children to be more likely to take up smoking later in life.

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Presented in Session 141: Parental Influences on Child and Adult Health