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Heavy alcohol use and youth suicide: Evidence from tougher drunk driving laws

  • Christopher Carpenter

    (University of California, Irvine)

This paper uses the widespread variation across states in the timing of adoption of tougher drunk driving laws that set very low legal blood alcohol limits for drivers under age 21-“zero tolerance” (ZT) laws-to provide new evidence on the causal effect of alcohol use on youth suicide. ZT laws reduced heavy episodic drinking by underage men, with no effect for slightly older males. I estimate the reduced form effect of ZT policy adoption on suicide deaths among 15-17-, 18-20-, 21-24-, and 25-29-year-old males and females for the period 1981-1998. The models control for macroeconomic conditions, demographic changes, other alcohol control policies, state and year fixed effects, and smooth state trends. Results indicate statistically significant reductions in suicide among young males aged 15-17 and 18-20 associated with adoption of ZT laws on the order of 7 to 10 percent. I find no effects for slightly older males who were unaffected by the tougher drunk driving laws, and no consistent effects for females. These results provide new and compelling evidence that heavy alcohol use causes young male suicide. © 2004 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/pam.20049
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Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Volume (Year): 23 (2004)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 831-842

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Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:23:y:2004:i:4:p:831-842
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/34787/home

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  1. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-in-Differences Estimates?," NBER Working Papers 8841, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Philip J. Cook & Michael J. Moore, 2001. "Environment and Persistence in Youthful Drinking Patterns," NBER Chapters, in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 375-438 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Daniel Eisenberg, 2003. "Evaluating the effectiveness of policies related to drunk driving," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(2), pages 249-274.
  4. Sara Markowitz & Pinka Chatterji & Robert Kaestner & Dhaval Dave, 2002. "Substance Use and Suicidal Behaviors Among Young Adults," NBER Working Papers 8810, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Carpenter, Christopher, 2004. "How do Zero Tolerance Drunk Driving Laws work?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 61-83, January.
  6. Sloan, Frank A & Reilly, Bridget A & Schenzler, Christoph, 1995. "Effects of Tort Liability and Insurance on Heavy Drinking and Drinking and Driving," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(1), pages 49-77, April.
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