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Does The Minimum Legal Drinking Age Save Lives?

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  • JEFFREY A. MIRON
  • ELINA TETELBAUM

Abstract

The minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) is widely believed to save lives by reducing traffic fatalities among underage drivers. Further, the Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act, which pressured all states to adopt an MLDA of 21, is regarded as having contributed enormously to this life‐saving effect. This article challenges both claims. State‐level panel data for the past 30 yr show that any nationwide impact of the MLDA is driven by states that increased their MLDA prior to any inducement from the federal government. Even in early‐adopting states, the impact of the MLDA did not persist much past the year of adoption. The MLDA appears to have only a minor impact on teen drinking. (JEL H11, K42)

Suggested Citation

  • Jeffrey A. Miron & Elina Tetelbaum, 2009. "Does The Minimum Legal Drinking Age Save Lives?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 47(2), pages 317-336, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecinqu:v:47:y:2009:i:2:p:317-336
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1465-7295.2008.00179.x
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    6. Dee, Thomas S., 1999. "State alcohol policies, teen drinking and traffic fatalities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 289-315, May.
    7. Christopher Carpenter & Carlos Dobkin, 2009. "The Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Mortality: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from the Minimum Drinking Age," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 164-182, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Robert Kaestner & Benjamin Yarnoff, 2011. "Long-Term Effects of Minimum Legal Drinking Age Laws on Adult Alcohol Use and Driving Fatalities," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(2), pages 325-363.
    2. Donald Freeman, 2012. "Income and Preventable Mortality: The Case of Youth Traffic Fatalities," Working Papers 1201, Sam Houston State University, Department of Economics and International Business.
    3. Darren Grant, 2011. "Politics, Policy Analysis, and the Passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984," Working Papers 1103, Sam Houston State University, Department of Economics and International Business.
    4. Ertan Yörük, Ceren & Yörük, Barış K., 2012. "The impact of drinking on psychological well-being: Evidence from minimum drinking age laws in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(10), pages 1844-1854.
    5. Yörük, BarIs K. & Yörük, Ceren Ertan, 2011. "The impact of minimum legal drinking age laws on alcohol consumption, smoking, and marijuana use: Evidence from a regression discontinuity design using exact date of birth," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 740-752, July.
    6. Ryan Rodenberg & Daniel Stone, 2011. "The Short and Long-Run Labor Market Effects of Age Eligibility Rules: Evidence from Women’s Professional Tennis," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 181-198, June.
    7. repec:pit:wpaper:356 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. 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), pages 54-62.
    9. Ceren Ertan Yörük & Barış Yörük, 2015. "Alcohol consumption and risky sexual behavior among young adults: evidence from minimum legal drinking age laws," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(1), pages 133-157, January.
    10. Fertig, Angela R. & Watson, Tara, 2009. "Minimum drinking age laws and infant health outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 737-747, May.
    11. Dills, Angela K., 2010. "Social host liability for minors and underage drunk-driving accidents," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 241-249, March.
    12. Rodenberg Ryan & Kim Jun Woo, 2012. "Testing the On-Court Efficacy of the NBA's Age Eligibility Rule," Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports, De Gruyter, vol. 8(2), pages 1-23, June.
    13. Freeman, Donald G., 2012. "Is Beer Safer than Spirits? How the Change in Consumption Shares of Alcoholic Beverage Types Affects Traffic Mortality in Young People," Journal of International Agricultural Trade and Development, Journal of International Agricultural Trade and Development, vol. 61(4).
    14. Kabir Dasgupta & Christopher Erwin & Alexander Plum, 2020. "The Devil is in the Details: Identifying the Unbiased Link between Access to Alcohol and Criminal Behavior," Working Papers 2020-12, Auckland University of Technology, Department of Economics.
    15. Beth A. Freeborn & Brian McManus, 2007. "Substance Abuse Treatment and Motor Vehicle Fatalities," Working Papers 66, Department of Economics, College of William and Mary.
    16. Lovenheim, Michael F. & Slemrod, Joel, 2010. "The fatal toll of driving to drink: The effect of minimum legal drinking age evasion on traffic fatalities," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 62-77, January.
    17. Freeman, Donald G., 2012. "Is Beer Safer than Spirits? How the Change in Consumption Shares of Alcoholic Beverage Types Affects Traffic Mortality in Young People," German Journal of Agricultural Economics, Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin, Department for Agricultural Economics, vol. 61(04), pages 1-11, November.
    18. Anderson, D. Mark & Rees, Daniel I., 2015. "Per se drugged driving laws and traffic fatalities," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 122-134.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law

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