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You Drink, You Drive, You Die? The Dynamics of Youth Risk Taking in Response to a Change in the Legal Drinking Age


  • Boes, Stefan

    () (University of Lucerne)

  • Stillman, Steven

    () (Free University of Bozen/Bolzano)


This paper exploits the reduction in the legal drinking age in New Zealand from 20 to 18 to study the dynamics of youth risk taking. Using administrative data on the universe of road accidents over a fifteen year period spanning the law change, we undertake three complimentary analyses to examine the dynamics of alcohol-related and total vehicular accidents among youth. First, using an event history approach, we find no evidence that changing the drinking age from 20 to 18 led to more vehicular accidents or alcohol-related accidents among teens. This is true both in the short-run following the law change and when examining cumulative accidents for the affected cohorts. Next, using an age-based regression discontinuity design (RDD), we find that accidents do increase after one's 18th birthday, but this appears to be a short-run phenomenon. Finally, estimating flexible parametric regression models suggests that reducing the drinking age led to a decline in risky driving by youth who were already 15 at the time of the change but had no longer-run impacts. Overall, our results support the argument that the legal drinking age can be lowered without increasing detrimental outcomes for youth and call into question previous studies that have made policy recommendations by extrapolating from results identified using age-based RDDs.

Suggested Citation

  • Boes, Stefan & Stillman, Steven, 2017. "You Drink, You Drive, You Die? The Dynamics of Youth Risk Taking in Response to a Change in the Legal Drinking Age," IZA Discussion Papers 10543, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp10543

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Crost, Benjamin & Guerrero, Santiago, 2012. "The effect of alcohol availability on marijuana use: Evidence from the minimum legal drinking age," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 112-121.
    2. Conover, Emily & Scrimgeour, Dean, 2013. "Health consequences of easier access to alcohol: New Zealand evidence," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 570-585.
    3. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2013.301734_2 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Christopher Carpenter & Carlos Dobkin, 2009. "The Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Mortality: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from the Minimum Drinking Age," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 164-182, January.
    5. Christopher Carpenter & Carlos Dobkin, 2011. "The Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Public Health," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(2), pages 133-156, Spring.
    6. Boes, Stefan & Stillman, Steven, 2013. "Does Changing the Legal Drinking Age Influence Youth Behaviour?," IZA Discussion Papers 7522, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    drinking age; vehicular accidents; regression discontinuity design; dynamics; New Zealand;

    JEL classification:

    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • K42 - Law and Economics - - Legal Procedure, the Legal System, and Illegal Behavior - - - Illegal Behavior and the Enforcement of Law
    • C25 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions; Probabilities

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