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The role of low expectations in health and education investment and hazardous consumption

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Young people with little ‘social or health capital’ may be more likely to take up hazardous consumption and shun investments in human capital, raising their likelihood of a ‘rags to rags’ sequence. First, diminishing marginal utility could raise the marginal benefit of hazardous consumption and the cost of investment. But poor youths may also have lower expectations of future success, independent of the choices they make. Lower expectations of success could reduce the future cost of hazardous consumption and benefit of investment. We test the effect of expectations on decisions to smoke, drink hazardously, exercise, and complete high school, using a longitudinal study of youth in New Zealand. We find that 15-year-olds' expectations of success predict the subsequent onset of smoking, lack of exercise, and failure to complete high school, but not hazardous drinking. While some of the influence of expectations can be explained by low social and health capital, IQ, and other factors, expectations retain a direct effect on smoking and exercise once these other factors are controlled for.

Keywords: D12; D90; I12; I2

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Economics, University of Canterbury 2: Division of Economics and Finance, Hanyang University 3: DMHDU Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago 4: Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London

Publication date: November 1, 2006


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