Smoking habits in Mexico: Upward and downward comparisons of economic status

Lucio Esposito, Shatakshee Dhongde, Christopher Joseph Millett

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While experimental and behavioral economics have extensively studied the role of both upward and downward comparisons of economic status, the latter have been largely neglected in secondary data studies. The scarce existing evidence shows mixed results and is essentially limited to analyses of subjective well-being in high-income countries. Using nationally representative data from Mexico with almost 45,000 personal records, we disentangle the role of absolute wealth, relative deprivation, and relative affluence as explanatory variables for smoking behavior. We find robust evidence of greater smoking at higher levels of absolute achievement and relative deprivation and lower smoking at higher levels of relative affluence. Results hold for a variety of indicators of smoking habits, reflecting both smoking prevalence and intensity. Compared to men, we find that women tend to have stronger associations between the three facets of economic status and smoking prevalence. Results are robust to the use of alternative functional forms and reference groups for the measurement of relative deprivation and relative affluence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1558-1575
Number of pages18
JournalReview of Development Economics
Issue number3
Early online date23 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • Mexico
  • gender
  • relative affluence
  • relative deprivation
  • smoking
  • wealth

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