Sex, marijuana and baby booms

Michele Baggio, Alberto Chong, David Simon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle in a journalpeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We study the behavioral changes caused by marijuana use on sexual activity, contraception, and birth counts by applying a differences-in-differences approach that exploits the variation in timing of the introduction of medical marijuana laws (MMLs) among states. We find that MMLs cause an increase in sexual activity, a reduction in contraceptive use conditional on having sex, and an increase in number of births. There is also suggestive evidence on temporary increases in the state-year gonorrhea rate. These changes may be attributed to behavioral responses including increased attention to the immediate hedonic effects of sexual contact, increased sexual frequency, as well as delayed discounting and ignoring the future costs associated with sex. Our findings on births suggest that behavioral factors can counteract the physiological changes from marijuana use that tend to decrease fertility. Our findings are robust to a broad set of tests.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102283
JournalJournal of Health Economics
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to seminar participants at the University of Oregon and University of New Hampshire, to Ben Hansen, Mark Anderson, Alan Barreca, Charles Courtemanche, Anuj Gangopadhyaya, Dan Rees, Stephen Ross, Brock Smith, Rusty Tchernis, and participants of the 2018 American Society of Health Economics conference for their useful comments and suggestions. Camila Morales, Tareena Musaddiq, and Erdal Asker provided research assistance. Researchers own analyses calculated (or derived) based in part on data from The Nielsen Company (US), LLC and marketing databases provided through the Nielsen Datasets at the Kilts Center for Marketing Data Center at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The conclusions drawn from the Nielsen data are those of the researchers and do not reflect the views of Nielsen. Nielsen is not responsible for, had no role in, and was not involved in analyzing and preparing the results reported herein. All remaining errors are our own.


  • Behavior
  • Contraceptive use
  • Fertility
  • Marijuana laws
  • Sexual activity


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