1997 Conference Brings Together Substance Abuse Researchers from Two Perspectives: Econometrics and Behavioral Psychology

Conference and publication on economic studies of substance use and abuse

In 1997, the National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Mass., convened the first meeting of two groups of researchers who study substance use and abuse — those working in the fields of econometrics and behavioral psychology.

Economists studying the demand for legal and illicit substances are generally unaware of the innovative research being conducted by behavioral psychologists that merges concepts from microeconomic theory with behavioral research methods. Similarly, behavioral researchers are generally unfamiliar with the econometric literature on substance use and abuse.

Key Results

  • On March 27–28, 1997, the bureau sponsored a conference in Cambridge, Mass., on "The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometric and Behavioral Economic Research."

    Two papers, one each from the econometrics and behavioral psychology perspectives, were presented on each of six different topics. Two discussants, typically one economist and one non-economist, also commented on every topic, pointing out the similarities and the differences in the approaches taken by the two disciplines. Among the key themes of the 12 papers (see the Bibliography for a complete list of authors and titles) are the following:
    • Cigarette smoking and other tobacco use.
    • Alcohol use and abuse.
    • Illicit drug use.
    • Polydrug use.
    • Substance abuse and employment.
    • Substance abuse and income.
  • A full set of revised papers and discussant comments were published as a book by the University of Chicago Press entitled The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometric and Behavioral Economic Research.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided $86,940 in grant support for the effort between October 1996 and March 1998.

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