Marijuana Use and High School Dropout: The Influence of Unobservables

33 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2008 Last revised: 15 Jul 2010

See all articles by Daniel McCaffrey

Daniel McCaffrey

RAND Corporation

Rosalie Liccardo Pacula

University of Southern California - Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Bing Han

RAND Corporation

Phyllis L. Ellickson

The RAND Corporation

Date Written: June 2008

Abstract

In this study we reconsider the relationship between heavy and persistent marijuana use and high school dropout status using a unique prospective panel study of over 4500 7th grade students from South Dakota who are followed up through high school. Propensity score weighting is used to adjust for baseline differences that are found to exist before marijuana initiation occurs (7th grade). Weighted logistic regression incorporating these propensity score weights is then used to examine the extent to which time-varying factors, including substance use, also influence the likelihood of dropping out of school. We find a positive association between marijuana use and dropping out (OR=5.68), over half of which can be explained by prior differences in observational characteristics and behaviors. The remaining association (OR=2.31) is made statistically insignificant when measures of cigarette smoking are included in the analysis. Because no physiological justification can be provided for why cigarette smoking would reduce the cognitive effects of marijuana on schooling, we interpret this as evidence that the association is due to other factors. We then use the rich data to explore which constructs are driving this result, determining that it is time-varying parental and peer influences.

Suggested Citation

McCaffrey, Daniel and Pacula, Rosalie Liccardo and Han, Bing and Ellickson, Phyllis L., Marijuana Use and High School Dropout: The Influence of Unobservables (June 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w14102. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1149348

Daniel McCaffrey

RAND Corporation ( email )

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Rosalie Liccardo Pacula (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Bing Han

RAND Corporation ( email )

1776 Main Street
P.O. Box 2138
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

Phyllis L. Ellickson

The RAND Corporation ( email )

1776 Main Street
P.O. Box 2138
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

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