Adolescents 30 % more likely to have a stimulant prescription filled during the school year
Despite the rise of medical interventions to address behavioral issues in childhood, the social determinants of their use remain poorly understood. By analyzing a dataset that includes the majority of prescriptions written for stimulants in the United States, this study finds a substantial effect of schooling on stimulant use. In middle and high school, adolescents are roughly 30 percent more likely to have a stimulant prescription filled during the school year than during the summer.
Socioeconomically advantaged children are more likely than their less advantaged peers to selectively use stimulants only during the academic year. These differences persist when higher and lower socioeconomic status children seeing the same doctors are compared.
The authors link these responses to academic pressure by exploiting variation between states in educational accountability system stringency. They find the largest differences in school year versus summer stimulant use in states with more accountability pressure.
School-based selective stimulant use is most common among economically advantaged children living in states with strict accountability policies. The study uncovers a new pathway through which medical interventions may act as a resource for higher socioeconomic status families to transmit educational advantages to their children, either intentionally or unwittingly.