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Does Changing the Legal Drinking Age Influence Youth Behaviour?

Author

Listed:
  • Boes, Stefan

    (University of Lucerne)

  • Stillman, Steven

    (Free University of Bozen/Bolzano)

Abstract

This paper examines the impact of a reduction in the legal drinking age in New Zealand from 20 to 18 on alcohol use, and alcohol-related hospitalisations and vehicular accidents among teenagers. We use both a difference-in-differences approach and a regression discontinuity design (RDD) to examine the impact of the law change. Our main findings are that lowering the legal drinking age did not appear to have led to, on average, an increase in alcohol consumption or binge drinking among 15-17 or 18-19 year-olds. However, there is evidence that the law change led to a significant increase in alcohol-related hospital admission rates for 18-19 year-olds, as well as for 15-17 year-olds. While these increases are large in relative magnitude, they are small in the absolute number of affected teenagers. Finally, we find no evidence for an increase in alcohol-related vehicular accidents at the time of the law change for any teenagers. In an important methodological contribution, we show that one approach commonly used to estimate the impact of changing the legal drinking age on outcomes, an RDD that compares individuals just younger than the drinking age to those just older, has the potential to give misleading results. Overall, our results support the argument that the legal drinking age can be lowered without leading to large increases in detrimental outcomes for youth.

Suggested Citation

  • Boes, Stefan & Stillman, Steven, 2013. "Does Changing the Legal Drinking Age Influence Youth Behaviour?," IZA Discussion Papers 7522, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7522
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2010. "Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 281-355, June.
    2. Yörük, BarIs K. & Yörük, Ceren Ertan, 2011. "The impact of minimum legal drinking age laws on alcohol consumption, smoking, and marijuana use: Evidence from a regression discontinuity design using exact date of birth," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 740-752, July.
    3. 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.
    4. Guido Imbens & Karthik Kalyanaraman, 2012. "Optimal Bandwidth Choice for the Regression Discontinuity Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 79(3), pages 933-959.
    5. Kypri, K. & Voas, R.B. & Langley, J.D. & Stephenson, S.C.R. & Begg, D.J. & Tippetts, A.S. & Davie, G.S., 2006. "Minimum purchasing age for alcohol and traffic crash injuries among 15- to 19-year-olds in New Zealand," American Journal of Public Health, American Public Health Association, vol. 96(1), pages 126-131.
    6. 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.
    7. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    8. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. #HEJC papers for September 2013
      by academichealtheconomists in The Academic Health Economists' Blog on 2013-09-01 04:01:38

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    Cited by:

    1. Datta Gupta, Nabanita & Nilsson, Anton, 2020. "Legal Drinking, Injury and Harm: Evidence from the Introduction and Modifications of Age Limits in Denmark," IZA Discussion Papers 13401, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Francesconi, Marco & James, Jonathan, 2021. "None for the Road? Stricter Drink Driving Laws and Road Accidents," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 79(C).
    3. Alexander Ahammer & Stefan Bauernschuster & Martin Halla & Hannah Lachenmaier, 2020. "Minimum Legal Drinking Age and the Social Gradient in Binge Drinking," CESifo Working Paper Series 8806, CESifo.
    4. Jason M. Lindo & Peter Siminski & Oleg Yerokhin, 2016. "Breaking The Link Between Legal Access To Alcohol And Motor Vehicle Accidents: Evidence From New South Wales," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(7), pages 908-928, July.
    5. Christopher S. Carpenter & Carlos Dobkin & Casey Warman, 2016. "The Mechanisms of Alcohol Control," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 51(2), pages 328-356.
    6. Francesconi, Marco & James, Jonathan, 2021. "None for the Road? Stricter Drink Driving Laws and Road Accidents," IZA Discussion Papers 14499, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. 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 of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    drinking age; alcohol consumption; hospitalization; vehicular accidents; New Zealand;
    All these keywords.

    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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