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The Myth of the Drinker's Bonus

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  • Philip J. Cook
  • Bethany Peters

Abstract

Drinkers earn more than non-drinkers, even after controlling for human capital and local labor market conditions. Several mechanisms by which drinking could increase productivity have been proposed but are unconfirmed; the more obvious mechanisms predict the opposite, that drinking can impair productivity. In this paper we reproduce the positive association between drinking and earnings, using data for adults age 27-34 from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1979). Since drinking is endogenous in this relationship, we then estimate a reduced-form equation, with alcohol prices (proxied by a new index of excise taxes) replacing the drinking variables. We find strong evidence that the prevalence of full-time work increases with alcohol prices %u2013 suggesting that a reduction in drinking increases the labor supply. We also demonstrate some evidence of a positive association between alcohol prices and the earnings of full-time workers. We conclude that most likely the positive association between drinking and earnings is the result of the fact that ethanol is a normal commodity, the consumption of which increases with income, rather than an elixer that enhances productivity.

Suggested Citation

  • Philip J. Cook & Bethany Peters, 2005. "The Myth of the Drinker's Bonus," NBER Working Papers 11902, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11902
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Philip J. Cook & George Tauchen, 1982. "The Effect of Liquor Taxes on Heavy Drinking," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 379-390, Autumn.
    2. Jeremy W. Bray, 2005. "Alcohol Use, Human Capital, and Wages," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 279-312, April.
    3. Mullahy, John & Sindelar, Jody, 1996. "Employment, unemployment, and problem drinking," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 409-434, August.
    4. Durlauf, Steven N. & Fafchamps, Marcel, 2005. "Social Capital," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 26, pages 1639-1699, Elsevier.
    5. Donald S. Kenkel & Ping Wang, 1999. "Are Alcoholics in Bad Jobs?," NBER Chapters, in: The Economic Analysis of Substance Use and Abuse: An Integration of Econometric and Behavioral Economic Research, pages 251-278, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. French, Michael T. & Zarkin, Gary A., 1995. "Is moderate alcohol use related to wages? Evidence from four worksites," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 319-344, August.
    7. Donald S. Kenkel & David C. Ribar, 1994. "Alcohol Consumption and Young Adults' Socioeconomic Status," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(1994 Micr), pages 119-175.
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    9. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-255, March-Apr.
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    12. Mullahy, John & Sindelar, Jody L, 1993. "Alcoholism, Work, and Income," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(3), pages 494-520, July.
    13. Cook, Philip J. & Moore, Michael J., 1993. "Drinking and schooling," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 411-429, December.
    14. Dave, Dhaval & Kaestner, Robert, 2002. "Alcohol taxes and labor market outcomes," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 357-371, May.
    15. Durlauf, Steven N. & Fafchamps, Marcel, 2005. "Social Capital," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 26, pages 1639-1699 Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jeff DeSimone, 2010. "Drinking and academic performance in high school," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(12), pages 1481-1497.
    2. Durrance, Christine Piette & Golden, Shelley & Perreira, Krista & Cook, Philip, 2011. "Taxing sin and saving lives: Can alcohol taxation reduce female homicides?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 169-176, July.
    3. Alexander S. Skorobogatov, 2014. "The Effect Of Closing Hour Restrictions On Alcohol Use And Abuse In Russia," HSE Working papers WP BRP 63/EC/2014, National Research University Higher School of Economics.
    4. Todd C. Neumann, 2013. "The effect of drinking and smoking on the labour market outcomes of low-income young adults," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(5), pages 541-553, February.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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