WP 2017_06 Behavioral Responses to Surveys About Nicotine Dependence

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Forthcoming – Health Economics

ABSTRACT: Behavioral responses to surveys can significantly affect inferences about population prevalence unless correctly modeled statistically. An important case study is the prevalence of nicotine dependence, a formal psychiatric disorder satisfying clinical criteria. Data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions in the United States are used, along with a flexible semi-nonparametric sample selection model. Corrections for sample selection responses to “gateway” survey questions lead to significantly higher estimates of the prevalence of nicotine dependence among current daily smokers. These corrections also imply even higher levels of the decades-long and lifetime-long persistence of nicotine dependence after the onset of smoking.