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Balsa, Ana I., Jenny F. Homer, Michael T. French, and Edward Norton. 2011. "Alcohol Use and Popularity: Social Payoffs from Conforming to Peers' Behavior." Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(3): 559-568.
Although many economic analyses of adolescents have examined the costs of risky behaviors, few have investigated the gains that young people derive from such actions, particularly in terms of social payoffs for complying with peer behavior. This paper studies the relationship between adolescents' use of alcohol (relative to that of their peers) and popularity at school. We use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a rich and nationally representative survey with detailed information on social networks. Our findings suggest that adolescents are socially rewarded for conforming to their peers' alcohol use and penalized (to a lesser degree) for increasing their consumption above that of their peers. Male adolescents are rewarded for keeping up with their peers' drinking and for getting drunk. Female adolescents are rewarded for drinking per se, but not necessarily for keeping up with their peers. The results offer new information on peer influence and have implications for substance abuse interventions at school and in the community.
Country of focus: United States.