Predicting Young Adult Degree Attainment by Late Adolescent Marijuana Use

Jennifer L. Maggs, Jeremy Staff, Deborah D. Kloska, Megan E. Patrick, Patrick M. O'Malley, John Schulenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Purpose The purpose of this study was to assess whether infrequent and frequent marijuana use at age 19/20 years predicts receipt of educational degrees by the mid-20s, independent of confounding age 18 adolescent risk factors. Methods Data were from the Monitoring the Future study, an annual nationally representative survey of high school seniors followed into adulthood. Thirteen cohorts (1990-2002) of high school seniors were followed longitudinally to their mid-20s (n = 4,925; 54% female). We used logistic regression and propensity score matching with successive inclusion of age 18 risk factors and substance use to compare age 19/20 frequent marijuana users (six or more occasions in past 30 days) to nonusers, frequent users to infrequent users (1-6 occasions), and infrequent users to nonusers on their likelihood of degree attainment by the mid-20s. Results Frequent marijuana users were less likely than infrequent users and nonusers to earn bachelor's degrees, even after controlling for a host of age 18 risk factors (e.g., family socioeconomic background, academic performance, educational expectations, truancy). However, these differences were reduced in magnitude to statistical nonsignificance when we controlled for age 18 substance use. Across analyses, the proportion reaching this educational milestone did not differ significantly between infrequent users and nonusers. Conclusions Results support a growing body of work suggesting that frequent marijuana use predicts a lower likelihood of postsecondary educational attainment, and this difference may originate during secondary school.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-211
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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