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Adolescent Drug Use and Educational Attainment


  • Charles Register
  • Donald Williams
  • Paul Grimes


Recent studies investigating the labor-market effects of illicit drug use have consistently found a positive relation between drug use and earnings. These analyses have, however, ignored the potential relationship between drug use and human-capital formation. This paper examines the effect of drug use during adolescence on formal educational attainment using a sample drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey Youth Cohort. The probability of drug use is estimated across racial groups according to three categories; use of any illicit drug, use including hard drugs, and use of only marijuana. Fitted values for the probability of drug use are calculated and entered into a regression framework to estimate the number of school years completed. The empirical results indicate that all three categories of drug use are associated with significant negative impacts on educational attainment after controlling for individual differences in personal endowments and socioeconomic characteristics. On average, adolescent drug use is found to reduce eventual educational attainment by about 1 year, ceteris paribus . These findings suggest that previous studies that focus only on the direct effects of drug use on earnings may reflect a statistical bias that leads to an overstatement of the positive effects of drug use on earnings.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles Register & Donald Williams & Paul Grimes, 2001. "Adolescent Drug Use and Educational Attainment," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(1), pages 1-18.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:edecon:v:9:y:2001:i:1:p:1-18 DOI: 10.1080/09645290124529

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    Cited by:

    1. van Ours, Jan C. & Williams, Jenny, 2009. "Why parents worry: Initiation into cannabis use by youth and their educational attainment," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 132-142, January.
    2. Daniel F. McCaffrey & Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & Bing Han & Phyllis Ellickson, 2010. "Marijuana use and high school dropout: the influence of unobservables," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(11), pages 1281-1299.
    3. Deza, Monica, 2015. "Is there a stepping stone effect in drug use? Separating state dependence from unobserved heterogeneity within and between illicit drugs," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 184(1), pages 193-207.
    4. Deborah A. Cobb-Clark & Sonja C. Kassenboehmer & Trinh Le & Duncan McVicar & Rong Zhang, 2015. "‘High’-School: The Relationship between Early Marijuana Use and Educational Outcomes," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 91(293), pages 247-266, June.
    5. Roebuck, M. Christopher & French, Michael T. & Dennis, Michael L., 2004. "Adolescent marijuana use and school attendance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 133-141, April.
    6. Carlos Casacuberta & Mariana Gerstenblüth & Patricia Triunfo, 2012. "Aportes del análisis económico al estudio de las drogas," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 0112, Department of Economics - dECON.
    7. Pfeifer, Christian & Cornelißen, Thomas, 2010. "The impact of participation in sports on educational attainment--New evidence from Germany," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 94-103, February.
    8. Lionel Perini & Joachim Marti, 2013. "The impact of cannabis use on short-term educatonal outcomes," IRENE Working Papers 13-03, IRENE Institute of Economic Research.
    9. Duarte, R. & Escario, J.J., 2006. "Alcohol abuse and truancy among Spanish adolescents: A count-data approach," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(2), pages 179-187, April.
    10. Zhao, Meng & Konishi, Yoshifumi & Glewwe, Paul, 2012. "Does smoking affect schooling? Evidence from teenagers in rural China," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 584-598.
    11. Duarte, Rosa & Escario, José-Julián & Molina, José Alberto, 2007. "Peer Effects, Unobserved Factors and Risk Behaviours: An Analysis of Alcohol Abuse and Truancy among Adolescents," IZA Discussion Papers 2589, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    12. Awaworyi Churchill, Sefa & Nuhu, Ahmed Salim, 2015. "Ethnic Diversity and Educational Attainment," EconStor Conference Papers 125567, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    13. Pudney, Stephen & Bryan, Mark & DelBono, Emilia, 2013. "Licensing and regulation of the cannabis market in England and Wales: Towards a cost-benefit analysis," MPRA Paper 50365, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Pierre Kébreau Alexandre & Michael T. French, 2004. "Further Evidence on the Labor Market Effects of Addiction: Chronic Drug Use and Employment in Metropolitan Miami," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 22(3), pages 382-393, July.
    15. Rosalie Liccardo Pacula & Karen E. Ross & Jeanne Ringel, 2003. "Does Marijuana Use Impair Human Capital Formation?," NBER Working Papers 9963, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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