The decline of marijuana

The latest drug statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show that illicit drug use is becoming less common. In the last six years (the survey goes back to 1993, but only since 2001 have huge 20,000+ samples been used) the proportion of Australians using any illicit drug in the last twelve months has declined from 16.9% to 13.4%.

What’s particularly interesting is the way it is falling away in the teen group, aged 14-19. While this is still an age of experimentation (the overall statistics are helped a lot by all us sober 40 plus people), the proportion of young men using illicit drugs in the last 12 months is getting close to having halved in just six years, from 28.8% to 15.6%. Among young women it is down from 26.6% to 17.7% (making this the only age group in which females are more likely to use drugs than males).

The main driver seems to be declining use of marijiuana/cannabis, which has more than halved among young men (26.6%/13.1%) and is significantly down among young women (22.6%/12.7%). The girls use party drugs more than the guys, accounting for their higher overall figure.

There is debate at Harry Clarke’s blog and Andrew Leigh’s blog about what might be causing these changes.
Continue reading “The decline of marijuana”

Can business students do their sums?, #2

Last year, after the federal government let universities increase annual student contribution amounts for commerce and economics students by $1,200, I predicted:

Applications for business degrees will not move outside the normal +/- <1% market share we see for most disciplines each year.

The basis of my prediction was that applications are primarily driven by interests, and that while financial factors can influence course choices within the range of a person’s interests, these financial factors will not just include course costs, but the anticipated long-term costs and benefits of a particular course choice. Business and economics students, even more than other students, are likely to be able to do their sums and realise that $3,600 in additional course costs is trivial compared to the long-term earnings gains they can reasonably expect.

Damien Eldridge wasn’t so keen on my analysis, pointing out (correctly) that what mattered here was the marginal economics and commerce student, and that a shift in relative prices could see some move to other disciplines that interest them. He suggested that they might go to geography or sociology.

The applications data for 2008 was released today, which shows that my prediction was correct but also reports numbers consistent with Damien’s analysis. Management and commerce did lose market share, by 0.31% of all applications. As usual, no discipline gained or lost by more than 1% market share, demonstrating the high year-to-year stability observed in this data, despite occasional shifts in relative prices. The broad discipline cluster that includes geography and sociology gained 0.43%. Engineering draws on similar quantitative skills to commerce, and many engineers end up as managers, so I think this would be another (and perhaps more likely) alternative course, and it gained 0.53% of market share. Continue reading “Can business students do their sums?, #2”