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School of Economics and Finance Seminar Antidepressant Use and School Academic Achievement

Speaker: Professor Sonia Bhalotra, University of Warwick

Abstract: We investigate impacts of antidepressant treatment on academic achievement among Danish children who are referred to a child psychiatrist. Leveraging conditional random assignment of patients to psychiatrists with different prescribing tendencies, we find that treatment significantly increases test scores, particularly in math. We show that the increase in test scores is meaningful in terms of its projected impact on income and contact with the police. Breaking down the LATE to identify MTE we find positive selection on gains based on unobservables. Policy simulations indicate that shifting the prescribing rate for low-SES children to the prescribing rate of high-SES children generates test score gains, consistent with low-SES children being under-prescribed. There is no evidence that antidepressant treatment has side effects measured as A&E visits. Our findings are relevant in view of the controversy over prescribing antidepressants to children.

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