ADHD and its comorbid mental disorders: An evaluation of their labor market outcomes


Hartge, Joseph & Toledo, Patricia (2018). ADHD and its comorbid mental disorders: An evaluation of their labor market outcomes. 2018 Add Health Users Conference. Bethesda, MD.


Background: Attention-deficit/hyper-activity disorder’s (ADHD) prevalence rate has been increasing during the last decade. Evidence from different studies suggests that the effect of ADHD on earnings and employment could be more detrimental than other disorders such as depression or anxiety. Although it is widely known that these mental disorders can coexist with ADHD, none of these studies has considered the joint evaluation of ADHD and its comorbidities. Objective: In this paper, we evaluate whether ADHD is a more severe disorder than three other comorbid mental disorders—learning disabilities, depression, and anxiety—regarding their effects on earnings and employment. Methods: We use the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health to estimate regression models of earnings and employment. We consider the use of the sampling weights, school fixed effects and multiple imputation of missing values. Robustness checks include a more exogenous measure of depression. Results: On average, an individual with ADHD or depression (but not both) has around 20% lower earnings than those without any of these disorders. The earnings gap for learning disabilities is around 25%. The probability of being employed is 5 percentage points lower for an individual that has any of these disorders. Anxiety is not associated with lower earnings. Females with learning disabilities have an earnings gap that is 20 percentage points larger. The employment gap for females or African Americans with learning disabilities is 8%. Discussion and limitations: In contrast to existing evidence, we find that ADHD is not more serious than having learning disabilities or depression. Even though the magnitude of each employment gap is not substantial, the fact that these are comorbid disorders indicates that their joint occurrence could be detrimental for employment. Females and African Americans with learning disabilities could face more adverse labor market outcomes. Even though our results are robust to a more exogenous measure of depression, the potential endogeneity of the diagnosis of ADHD or anxiety could still bias the estimates. However, baseline results are also robust when individuals with an age of diagnosis equal to the year of the interview are dropped from the estimations.

Reference Type

Conference proceeding

Book Title

2018 Add Health Users Conference


Hartge, Joseph
Toledo, Patricia

Year Published


City of Publication

Bethesda, MD

Reference ID