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Does the Minimum Legal Drinking Age Save Lives?

  • Miron, Jeffrey A.
  • Tetelbaum, Elina

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).

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Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 4319664.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Publication status: Published in Economic Inquiry
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:4319664
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  1. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1995. "Alcohol Policies and Highway Vehicle Fatalities," NBER Working Papers 5195, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Timothy Besley & Anne Case, 1994. "Unnatural Experiments? Estimating the Incidence of Endogenous Policies," NBER Working Papers 4956, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. R. Kaestner, 2000. "A note on the effect of minimum drinking age laws on youth alcohol consumption," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 18(3), pages 315-325, 07.
  4. Dee, Thomas S., 1999. "State alcohol policies, teen drinking and traffic fatalities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 289-315, May.
  5. Carpenter Christopher S & Kloska Deborah D & O'Malley Patrick & Johnston Lloyd, 2007. "Alcohol Control Policies and Youth Alcohol Consumption: Evidence from 28 Years of Monitoring the Future," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 7(1), pages 1-23, May.
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