Heavy Alcohol Use and Crime: Evidence from Underage Drunk-Driving Laws
This paper provides new evidence on the causal effect of alcohol use and crime. I use variation induced by the adoption of strict zero-tolerance (ZT) drunk-driving laws, which significantly reduced binge drinking by males aged 18â€“20 years but did not affect slightly older males aged 22â€“24 years. I use age-specific arrest data for police agencies in metropolitan statistical areas to estimate the effect of ZT laws on crime, controlling for both year and police agency fixed effects. I find that ZT laws significantly increased the fraction of adult male arrests for driving under the influence attributable to 18â€“20-year-olds and decreased the fraction of nuisance and property crime arrests attributable to 18â€“20-year-olds, with no effects on violent crime. These results are validated by important null findings: ZT laws did not affect arrests in any crime category for males aged 22â€“24 years. These results suggest that heavy alcohol use causes the commission of property and nuisance crimes.
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