Previous studies have shown that years of formal schooling attained affects health behaviors, but little is known about how the stringency of academic programs affects such behaviors, especially among youth.
This study uses national survey data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS), to examine the effects of mathematics and science high-school graduation requirements (HSGR) on high school students’ risky health behaviors--specifically on drinking, smoking, and marijuana use.
The researchers find that an increase in mathematics and science HSGR has significant negative impacts on alcohol consumption among high-school students, especially males and non-white students. The effects of math and science HSGR on smoking and marijuana use are also negative but generally less precisely estimated.
The results suggest that curriculum design may have potential as a policy tool to curb youth drinking.