More Detailed Data Would Improve State Surveys of Latino Adolescent Drug Use

Improving research on Latino substance abuse

Researchers at the Metropolitan Research and Policy Institute, University of Texas, San Antonio, examined state surveys on Latino adolescent substance abuse and compared them with two national surveys conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study offered:

  • Methodological recommendations to improve state surveys.
  • Described how nonparticipation in state surveys threatens their validity.
  • Offered several substantive findings.

A final project report is available online.

Key Findings

  • Substance-use surveys should identify race and Latino ethnicity of the subjects (e.g., Puerto Rican vs. Mexican) and should separate Latinos into a US-born group and an immigrant group.
  • The failure to achieve adequate participation severely restricts the ability of researchers to generalize from survey findings.
  • State surveys consistently report higher rates of substance use among adolescents than does the federal survey Monitoring the Future.
  • Federal and state surveys yield differing rates of Latino adolescent drug use within the same state. The two federal surveys also yield differing national drug use rates for Latino adolescents.
  • Within states, rates of Latino adolescent drug use generally are higher than among African Americans and slightly lower, equal to, or higher than among non-Hispanic whites.
  • State surveys show that Latino adolescent drug use rates have increased in the 1990s (especially for marijuana) and have also increased relative to other ethnic groups.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this project with a grant of $129,884.

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