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Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik

Journal of Economics and Statistics

Editor-in-Chief: Winker, Peter

Ed. by Büttner, Thiess / Riphahn, Regina / Smolny, Werner / Wagner, Joachim

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Volume 238, Issue 5


Biased Lung Cancer Risk Perceptions: Smokers are Misinformed

Nicolas R. Ziebarth
  • Corresponding author
  • Policy Analysis and Management (PAM), Cornell University, 106 Martha van Rensselaer Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA
  • DIW Berlin, Mohrenstraße 58, 10117 Berlin, Germany
  • IZA Bonn, Schaumburg-Lippe-Straße 5-9, 53113 Bonn, Germany
  • RWI Essen, Essen, Germany
  • Email
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
Published Online: 2018-07-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jbnst-2018-0017


This paper empirically investigates biased beliefs about the risks of smoking. First, it confirms the established tendency of people to overestimate the lifetime risk of a smoker to contract lung cancer. In this paper’s survey, almost half of all respondents overestimate this risk. However, 80% underestimate lung cancer deadliness. In reality, less than one in five patients survive five years after a lung cancer diagnosis. Due to the broad underestimation of the lung cancer deadliness, the lifetime risk of a smoker to die of lung cancer is underestimated by almost half of all respondents. Smokers who do not plan to quit are significantly more likely to underestimate this overall mortality risk.

Keywords: smoking; lung cancer risk; five-year survival rate; subjective beliefs; risk perceptions; over optimism bias

JEL Classification: D81; D84; I12; L66


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About the article

Received: 2016-10-31

Revised: 2018-01-30

Accepted: 2018-02-25

Published Online: 2018-07-03

Published in Print: 2018-09-25

Citation Information: Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, Volume 238, Issue 5, Pages 395–421, ISSN (Online) 2366-049X, ISSN (Print) 0021-4027, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/jbnst-2018-0017.

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