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The Gorbachev Anti-alcohol Campaign and Russia's Mortality Crisis

  • Jay Bhattacharya
  • Christina Gathmann
  • Grant Miller

Political and economic transition is often blamed for Russia's 40 percent surge in deaths between 1990 and 1994. Highlighting that increases in mortality occurred primarily among alcohol-related causes and among working-age men (the heaviest drinkers), this paper investigates an alternative explanation: the demise of the 1985-1988 Gorbachev Anti-Alcohol Campaign. Using archival sources to build a new oblast-year dataset spanning 1978-2000, we find a variety of evidence suggesting that the campaign's end explains a large share of the mortality crisis, implying that Russia's transition to capitalism and democracy was not as lethal as commonly suggested. (JEL D72, I12, I18, P26, P36)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Applied Economics.

Volume (Year): 5 (2013)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 232-60

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:5:y:2013:i:2:p:232-60
Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.5.2.232
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  1. Hoyt Bleakley, 2007. "Disease and Development: Evidence from Hookworm Eradication in the American South," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 122(1), pages 73-117, 02.
  2. Brainerd, Elizabeth, 2001. "Economic Reform and Mortality in the Former Soviet Union: A Study of the Suicide Epidemic in the 1990s," IZA Discussion Papers 243, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Nathan Nunn & Nancy Qian, 2009. "The Potato's Contribution to Population and Urbanization: Evidence from an Historical Experiment," NBER Working Papers 15157, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Christina Gathmann & Marijke Welisch, 2012. "The Gorbachev Anti-Alcohol Campaign and Russia’s Mortality Crisis," CESifo DICE Report, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 10(4), pages 62-68, December.
  5. Ellman, Michael, 1994. "The Increase in Death and Disease under "Katastroika."," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(4), pages 329-55, August.
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