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The Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Mortality: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from the Minimum Drinking Age

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  • Christopher Carpenter
  • Carlos Dobkin

Abstract

This paper estimates the effect of alcohol consumption on mortality using the minimum drinking age in a regression discontinuity design. We find that granting legal access to alcohol at age 21 leads to large and immediate increases in several measures of alcohol consumption, including a 21 percent increase in the number of days on which people drink. This increase in alcohol consumption results in a discrete 9 percent increase in the mortality rate at age 21. The overall increase in deaths is due primarily to a 14 percent increase in deaths due to motor vehicle accidents, a 30 percent increase in alcohol overdoses and alcohol-related deaths, and a 15 percent increase in suicides. Combining the reduced-form estimates reveals that a 1 percent increase in the number of days a young adult drinks or drinks heavily results in a .4 percent increase in total mortality. Given that mortality due to external causes peaks at about age 21 and that young adults report very high levels of alcohol consumption, our results suggest that public policy interventions to reduce youth drinking can have substantial public health benefits.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Carpenter & Carlos Dobkin, 2007. "The Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Mortality: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from the Minimum Drinking Age," NBER Working Papers 13374, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13374
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    1. Young, Douglas J & BieliĀ“nska-Kwapisz, Agnieszka, 2002. "Alcohol Taxes and Beverage Prices," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 55(1), pages 57-73, March.
    2. Young, Douglas J & BieliĀ“nska-Kwapisz, Agnieszka, 2002. "Alcohol Taxes and Beverage Prices," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(N. 1), pages 57-73, March.
    3. Christopher Carpenter, 2004. "Heavy alcohol use and youth suicide: Evidence from tougher drunk driving laws," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(4), pages 831-842.
    4. Philip J. Cook & Michael J. Moore, 2001. "Environment and Persistence in Youthful Drinking Patterns," NBER Chapters,in: Risky Behavior among Youths: An Economic Analysis, pages 375-438 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    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.
    6. Dee, Thomas S., 1999. "State alcohol policies, teen drinking and traffic fatalities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 289-315, May.
    7. Michael Grossman & Frank J. Chaloupka & Henry Saffer & Adit Laixuthai, 1993. "Effects of Alcohol Price Policy on Youth," NBER Working Papers 4385, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Joksch, Hans C. & Jones, Ralph K., 1993. "Changes in the drinking age and crime," Journal of Criminal Justice, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 209-221.
    9. 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, July.
    10. Henry Saffer & Michael Grossman, 1986. "Beer Taxes, the Legal Drinking Age, and Youth Motor Vehicle Fatalities," NBER Working Papers 1914, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Hahn, Jinyong & Todd, Petra & Van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2001. "Identification and Estimation of Treatment Effects with a Regression-Discontinuity Design," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(1), pages 201-209, January.
    12. Baughman, Reagan & Conlin, Michael & Dickert-Conlin, Stacy & Pepper, John, 2001. "Slippery when wet: the effects of local alcohol access laws on highway safety," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 1089-1096, November.
    13. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1992:82:1:112-115_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. William N. Evans & Thomas S. Dee, 2001. "Behavior Policies and Teen Traffic Safety," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 91-96, May.
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    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health

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