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Sex Under the Influence: The Effect of Alcohol Policy on Sexually Transmitted Disease Rates in the United States

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  • Chesson, Harrell
  • Harrison, Paul
  • Kassler, William J

Abstract

This article presents evidence that sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates are responsive to increases in alcohol taxes and in the drinking age. The presumed relationship is that a more restrictive alcohol policy reduces alcohol consumption, which in turn decreases risky sexual activity. Reduced-form regressions of STD rates on state alcohol taxes for the years 1981-95 (with controls for state and year) indicate that a $1 increase in the per-gallon liquor tax reduces gonorrhea rates by 2.1 percent, and a beer tax increase of $.20 per six-pack reduces gonorrhea rates by 8.9 percent, with similar though more pronounced effects on syphilis rates. Quasi-experimental analysis of alcohol policy changes supports these findings and offers evidence that increases in the drinking age reduce STD rates among youth. The estimated external cost of alcohol-attributable STDs exceeds $556 million annually, a factor that could be considered in determining optimal alcohol policy. Copyright 2000 by the University of Chicago.

Suggested Citation

  • Chesson, Harrell & Harrison, Paul & Kassler, William J, 2000. "Sex Under the Influence: The Effect of Alcohol Policy on Sexually Transmitted Disease Rates in the United States," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(1), pages 215-238, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:v:43:y:2000:i:1:p:215-38
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/467453
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