High School Drug Use Predicts Job-Related Outcomes at Age 29

Published in: Addictive Behaviors, v. 32, no. 3, Mar. 2007, p. 576-589

Posted on RAND.org on July 28, 2016

by Jeanne S. Ringel, Phyllis L. Ellickson, Rebecca L. Collins

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The present study examines the relationship between hard drug use in high school and occupational and job quality outcomes measured at approximately age 29. The authors use two different methods aimed at ruling out the possibility of spurious correlations between high school drug use and occupational outcomes: (1) directly controlling for pre-high school characteristics that may affect both high school drug use and later occupational characteristics (e.g., educational orientation, early drug use and deviant behavior); and (2) matching high school users with a subset of nonusers that have very similar characteristics and then estimating the difference in labor market outcomes for these two groups (i.e., propensity score matching). Overall, the results suggest that adolescent drug use is linked with poorer occupational and job quality outcomes as much as 10 years after high school. Interestingly, which job-related outcomes are affected by early hard drug use varies by gender. Females who use hard drugs as adolescents end up in lower skill, lower status jobs while males who use hard drugs as adolescents are more likely to end up in jobs with fewer benefits (e.g., health, retirement).

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