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Does Drinking Really Decrease in Bad Times?

  • Christopher J. Ruhm
  • William E. Black

This paper investigates the relationship between macroeconomic conditions, alcohol use, and drinking problems using individual-level data from the 1987-1999 years of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. We confirm the procyclical variation in overall drinking identified in previous research using aggregate sales data and show that this largely results from changes in consumption among existing drinkers, rather than movements into or out of drinking. Moreover, the decrease in alcohol use occurring during bad economic times is concentrated among heavy consumers, with light drinking actually increasing in these periods. We find no evidence that the decline in overall drinking masks a rise in alcohol use for persons becoming unemployed during contractions, suggesting that any stress-induced increases in consumption are more than offset by reductions resulting from changes in economic factors such as lower incomes.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8511.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8511.

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Date of creation: Oct 2001
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Publication status: published as Ruhm, Christopher J. and William E. Black. "Does Drinking Really Decrease In Bad Times?," Journal of Health Economics, 2002, v21(4,Jul), 659-678.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8511
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  1. Ettner, Susan L., 1997. "Measuring the human cost of a weak economy: Does unemployment lead to alcohol abuse?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 251-260, January.
  2. Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 1999. "Asymptotic Properties of Weighted M-Estimators for Variable Probability Samples," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(6), pages 1385-1406, November.
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  4. Kenkel, Donald S, 1996. "New Estimates of the Optimal Tax on Alcohol," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 34(2), pages 296-319, April.
  5. Ruhm, Christopher J., 1995. "Economic conditions and alcohol problems," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(5), pages 583-603, December.
  6. Sloan, Frank A & Reilly, Bridget A & Schenzler, Christoph, 1995. "Effects of Tort Liability and Insurance on Heavy Drinking and Drinking and Driving," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 38(1), pages 49-77, April.
  7. Manning, Willard G. & Blumberg, Linda & Moulton, Lawrence H., 1995. "The demand for alcohol: The differential response to price," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 123-148, June.
  8. Thomas S. Dee, 2001. "Alcohol abuse and economic conditions: Evidence from repeated cross-sections of individual-level data," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(3), pages 257-270.
  9. Brenner, M. Harvey & Mooney, Anne, 1983. "Unemployment and health in the context of economic change," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 17(16), pages 1125-1138, January.
  10. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Butler, J. S., 2000. "Efficiency results of MLE and GMM estimation with sampling weights," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 25-37, May.
  12. Ames, Genevieve M. & Rebhun, L. A., 1996. "Women, alcohol and work: Interactions of gender, ethnicity and occupational culture," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 43(11), pages 1649-1663, December.
  13. Theodossiou, I., 1998. "The effects of low-pay and unemployment on psychological well-being: A logistic regression approach," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 85-104, January.
  14. Mullahy, John, 1998. "Much ado about two: reconsidering retransformation and the two-part model in health econometrics," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 247-281, June.
  15. Freeman, Donald G., 1999. "A note on 'Economic conditions and alcohol problems'," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 659-668, October.
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