Gender, Early Life Circumstances, and Smoking

Kuo, Hsiang-Hui Daphne, and Jonathan D. Mayer
Working paper no. 2001-08


Using a large longitudinal sample of mid-life men and women, we study the long-term relationship between early life circumstances and regular smoking. Early life circumstances have profound influences on smoking experiences. Smoking is learned, but certain conditions foster this learning. Contrary to a common belief, poverty and family structure do not associate with smoking in our sample. Attachment to social norms, adverse family environments, and school performance are all related to smoking initiation, continuation, or cessation. Gender differences can be observed in individual smoking histories, influences of early life circumstances, and the duration of those influences. The effects of cognitive ability and parental encouragement for college education on women’s smoking experiences suggest a plausible cohort effect.