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The Effect of Alcohol Prohibition on Alcohol Consumption

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  • Jeffrey A. Miron

Abstract

This paper examines the impact of Prohibition on alcohol consumption. Since data on both the price and quantity of alcohol are unavailable during the Prohibition period, it is not possible to estimate Prohibition's impact on either the supply or demand for alcohol. Assuming the existence of a reasonable proxy for alcohol consumption, however, it is possible to estimate the net impact of Prohibition on the equilibrium quantity of alcohol consumed. I estimate this effect under a range of assumptions about the nature of preferences, taking into account other possible determinants of alcohol consumption and the proxy series. The overall conclusion of the paper is that Prohibition exerted a modest and possibly even a positive effect on alcohol consumption. One possible interpretation of the results is that the demand for alcohol is relatively inelastic, although many earlier studies find substantial elasticity in the demand for alcohol. Another possible interpretation is that Prohibition created a forbidden fruit effect that increased preferences for alcohol, tending to offset the depressing effects of increased prices on demand. Still a third possibility is that Prohibition failed to raise alcohol prices substantially, perhaps because black markets suppliers face low marginal costs of evading government regulations and taxes. Existing data provide some support for this last possibility.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7130.

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Date of creation: May 1999
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Publication status: published as Dills, Angela K. & Jacobson, Mireille & Miron, Jeffrey A., 2005. "The effect of alcohol prohibition on alcohol consumption: evidence from drunkenness arrests," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 86(2), pages 279-284, February.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7130

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  1. Chaloupka, Frank, 1991. "Rational Addictive Behavior and Cigarette Smoking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 722-42, August.
  2. Jeffrey A. Miron & Jeffrey Zwiebel, 1991. "Alcohol Consumption During Prohibition," NBER Working Papers 3675, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Newey, Whitney K & West, Kenneth D, 1987. "A Simple, Positive Semi-definite, Heteroskedasticity and Autocorrelation Consistent Covariance Matrix," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(3), pages 703-08, May.
  4. Manning, Willard G. & Blumberg, Linda & Moulton, Lawrence H., 1995. "The demand for alcohol: The differential response to price," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 123-148, June.
  5. Michael J. Moore & Philip J. Cook, 1995. "Habit and Heterogeneity in the Youthful Demand for Alcohol," NBER Working Papers 5152, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Frank J. Chaloupka & Henry Wechsler, 1995. "The Impact of Price, Availability, and Alcohol Control Policies on Binge Drinking in College," NBER Working Papers 5319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Gary S. Becker & Kevin M. Murphy, 1986. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 41, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  8. Becker, Gary S & Grossman, Michael & Murphy, Kevin M, 1994. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 396-418, June.
  9. Jeffrey A. Miron & Jeffrey Zwiebel, 1995. "The Economic Case against Drug Prohibition," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(4), pages 175-192, Fall.
  10. Massimo Motta, 1996. "Advertising bans," Economics Working Papers 205, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Jan 1997.
  11. Michael Grossman & Frank J. Chaloupka & Ismail Sirtalan, 1995. "An Empirical Analysis of Alcohol Addiction: Results from the Monitoring the Future Panels," NBER Working Papers 5200, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Abbink, Klaus & Dasgupta, Utteeyo & Gangadharan, Lata & Jain, Tarun, 2012. "Letting the briber go free: an experiment on mitigating harassment bribes," MPRA Paper 42176, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Clements, Kenneth W., 2003. "Three Facts About Marijuana Prices," 2003 Conference (47th), February 12-14, 2003, Fremantle, Australia 57846, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
  3. Kenneth W. Clements & Xueyan Zhao, 2005. "Economic Aspects of Marijuana," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 05-28, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
  4. Angela K. Dills, 2004. "Alcohol Prohibition and Cirrhosis," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 6(2), pages 285-318.
  5. Kenneth W. Clements & Yihui Lan & Xueyan Zhao, 2005. "The Demand for Vice: Inter-Commodity Interactions with Uncertainty," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 05-30, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.

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