Essays on Health, Education, and Behavioral Choices
Social and Behavioral Sciences
My dissertation is composed of two essays that investigate the interrelationship between consumers’ health, education, behavioral choices, and perceptions. The first essay evaluates the impact of teenage smoking on schooling and estimates the lifetime income loss due to lower educational achievement and attainment caused by youth smoking. Using unusually rich data from China, the study shows that youth smoking can biologically reduce learning productivity and discourage motivation to go to school (where smoking is forbidden), resulting in lower educational outcomes and, consequently, reduced lifetime income. The second essay empirically analyzes the effect of a doctor diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure) on food demand and nutrient intake. The study shows that three quarters of the hypertensive population in China are unaware of their condition. A doctor’s diagnosis can lead consumers to update their perceptions about their health and, therefore, make better decisions for their food choices. The study finds that, after a diagnosis of hypertension, consumers significantly reduce their daily fat intake, especially the consumption of animal oil and pork. The effect is stronger for 2004 data, compared to the 1997 and 2000 data. This suggests that consumers have become more health conscious in recent years.