Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Economics of ADD/ADHD

People with ADD/ADHD often impose costs on others. In their own distractions, they distract others. Further, while in school, they require the use of additional scarce resources for separate exams, extra assistance, etc. These extra costs are reasonably well-known, and there seems to be pretty good agreement that they exist.

The economic policy question is, "Who should bear how much of these costs?"

This question takes on new meaning when we learn about new research that ADHD drivers aren't as safe as others [thanks to Brian Ferguson for the link]:

Researchers at a national road safety conference in Fredericton are trying to figure out why people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are more likely to drive dangerously.

Christine Wickens, a graduate student from York University in Toronto, said there hasn't been enough study of the problem. But based on the available research, she said it's clear that people with ADHD get into more trouble on the road than other drivers.

"ADHD drivers tend to be involved in more collisions. They have more traffic citations, particularly for speeding. They're more likely to have had their licences revoked and to drive without a licence."

Wickens said people with ADHD are also more likely to get arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

"What we're interested in really, is trying to understand why that's happening and why ADHD drivers tend to engage in more risky driving behaviour."

Economics suggests a Larry-Summers-type hypothesis to test: It is possible that some (not all) people suffering from ADHD have received special privileges often in their lives and have not been required to figure out how to deal with their condition. To the extent this is correct, we might expect these individuals to show less care in their driving as well, having been trained to expect special favours.

And speaking of driving, if, indeed, people with ADHD have more accidents and infractions, there is a higher expected cost of their driving and of insuring them. Who will bear the costs of the risks these drivers impose on others? How many people would try to get rid of their ADHD designation if they had to pay a few hundred dollars extra for auto insurance every six months?
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