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Minimum Legal Drinking Age and the Social Gradient in Binge Drinking

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  • Alexander Ahammer
  • Stefan Bauernschuster
  • Martin Halla
  • Hannah Lachenmaier

Abstract

Low minimum legal drinking ages (MLDAs), as prevalent in many European countries, are severely understudied. We use rich survey and administrative data to estimate the impact of the Austrian MLDA of 16 on teenage drinking behavior and morbidity. Regression discontinuity estimates show that legal access to alcohol increases the frequency and intensity of drinking, which results in more hospital admissions due to alcohol intoxication. The effects are stronger for boys and teenagers with low socioeconomic background. Evidence suggests that the policy’s impact can hardly be fully explained by access. Data from an annual large-scale field study shows that about 25 percent of all retailers sell even hard liquor to underage customers. More generally, perceived access to alcohol is very high and hardly changes at the MLDA. However, teenagers consider binge drinking at weekends to be less harmful after gaining legal access.

Suggested Citation

  • Alexander Ahammer & Stefan Bauernschuster & Martin Halla & Hannah Lachenmaier, 2021. "Minimum Legal Drinking Age and the Social Gradient in Binge Drinking," Working Papers 205, Bavarian Graduate Program in Economics (BGPE).
  • Handle: RePEc:bav:wpaper:205_ahammerbauernschusterhallalachenmaier
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    Cited by:

    1. Anna Bindler & Randi Hjalmarsson & Nadine Ketel & Andreea Mitrut, 2024. "Discontinuities in the Age-Victimisation Profile and the Determinants of Victimisation," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 134(657), pages 95-134.
    2. Matthias Bäuml & Jan Marcus & Thomas Siedler, 2023. "Health effects of a ban on late‐night alcohol sales," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(1), pages 65-89, January.
    3. Dehos, Fabian & Mensen, Anne, 2022. "Binge drinking and alcohol related hospital stays: Does a legal drinking age matter for minors?," Ruhr Economic Papers 958, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    4. Dehos, Fabian T., 2022. "Underage access to alcohol and its impact on teenage drinking and crime," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C).
    5. Yoosik Shin, 2023. "School starting age policy and students' risky health behaviors," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 32(11), pages 2446-2459, November.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Alcohol; minimum legal drinking age; morbidity;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • H75 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - State and Local Government: Health, Education, and Welfare
    • J13 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Fertility; Family Planning; Child Care; Children; Youth

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