The effect of school dropout rates on estimates of adolescent substance use among three racial/ethnic groups

Am J Public Health. 1997 Jan;87(1):51-5. doi: 10.2105/ajph.87.1.51.


Objectives: This study examined, across three racial/ethnic groups, how the inclusion of data on drug use of dropouts can alter estimates of adolescent drug use rates.

Methods: Self-report rates of lifetime prevalence and use in the previous 30 days were obtained from Mexican American, White non-Hispanic, and Native American student (n = 738) and dropouts (n = 774). Rates for the age cohort (students and dropouts) were estimated with a weighted correction formula.

Results: Rates of use reported by dropouts were 1.2 to 6.4 times higher than those reported by students. Corrected rates resulted in changes in relative rates of use by different ethnic groups.

Conclusions: When only in-school data are available, errors in estimating drug use among groups with high rates of school dropout can be substantial. Correction of student-based data to include drug use of dropouts leads to important changes in estimated levels of drug use and alters estimates of the relative rates of use for racial/ethnic minority groups with high dropout rates.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Bias
  • Cohort Studies
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American*
  • Mexican Americans*
  • Prevalence
  • Student Dropouts / statistics & numerical data*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People*