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Minimum Drinking Age Laws and Infant Health Outcomes

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  • Tara Watson
  • Angela Fertig

Abstract

Alcohol policies have potentially far-reaching impacts on risky sexual behavior, prenatal health behaviors, and subsequent outcomes for infants. We examine whether changes in minimum drinking age (MLDA) laws affect the likelihood of poor birth outcomes. Using data from the National Vital Statistics (NVS) for the years 1978-88, we find that a drinking age of 18 is associated with adverse outcomes among births to young mothers -- including higher incidences of low birth weight and premature birth, but not congenital malformations. The effects are largest among black women. We find suggestive evidence from both the NVS and the 1979 National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY) that the MLDA laws alter the composition of births that occur. In states with lenient drinking laws, young black mothers are more likely to have used alcohol 12 months prior to the birth of their child and less likely to report paternal information on the birth certificate. We suspect that lenient drinking laws generate poor birth outcomes because they increase the number of unplanned pregnancies.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14118.

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Date of creation: Jun 2008
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14118

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Cited by:
  1. Alan I. Barreca & Marianne E. Page, 2012. "A Pint for a Pound? Reevaluating the Relationship Between Minimum Drinking Age Laws and Birth Outcomes," Working Papers 1220, Tulane University, Department of Economics.
  2. Carrell, Scott E. & Hoekstra, Mark & West, James E., 2011. "Does drinking impair college performance? Evidence from a regression discontinuity approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1-2), pages 54-62, February.
  3. Janet Currie, 2011. "Inequality at Birth: Some Causes and Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(3), pages 1-22, May.
  4. Lindo, Jason M. & Siminski, Peter & Yerokhin, Oleg, 2014. "Breaking the Link Between Legal Access to Alcohol and Motor Vehicle Accidents: Evidence from New South Wales," IZA Discussion Papers 7930, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder & George L. Wehby & Sarah Lewis & Luisa Zuccolo, 2014. "Alcohol Exposure In Utero and Child Academic Achievement," NBER Working Papers 19839, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Ji Yan, 2013. "Prenatal Smoking Cessation and Infant Health: Evidence from Sibling Births," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 299-323, October.
  7. Janet Currie, 2011. "Ungleichheiten bei der Geburt: Einige Ursachen und Folgen," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 12(s1), pages 42-65, 05.
  8. Ji Yan, 2011. "Does the Minimum Cigarette Purchase Age of 21 Protect Young Mothers from Cigarettes, Help Their Babies?," Working Papers 11-17, Department of Economics, Appalachian State University.
  9. Almond, Douglas & Currie, Janet & Herrmann, Mariesa, 2012. "From infant to mother: Early disease environment and future maternal health," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 475-483.
  10. Christopher Carpenter & Carlos Dobkin, 2011. "The Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Public Health," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 133-56, Spring.

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