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, 1 (1), 164-182

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

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

Christopher Carpenter et al. Am Econ J Appl Econ.

Abstract

We estimate the effect of alcohol consumption on mortality using the minimum drinking age in a regression discontinuity design. We find large and immediate increases in drinking at age 21, including a 21 percent increase in recent drinking days. We also find a discrete 9 percent increase in the mortality rate at age 21, primarily due to motor vehicle accidents, alcohol-related deaths, and suicides. We estimate a 10 percent increase in the number of drinking days for young adults results in a 4.3 percent increase in mortality. Our results suggest policies that reduce drinking among young adults can have substantial public health benefits. (JEL I12, I18).

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1. Age Profile of Drinking Participation
Notes: NHIS Sample Adult 1997–2005. Cells are the proportion of people in a 30-day block that report the behavior. The regression line is a second-order polynomial fitted on unweighted individual observations on either side of the age 21 cutoff.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Age Profile of Drinking Intensity
Notes: People can report their drinking for the last week, month, or year; 71 percent of respondents used a reference period of one week or one month. Average number of drinks per day is for people who reported some drinking.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Age Profile for Death Rates
Notes: Deaths from the National Vital Statistics Records. Includes all deaths that occurred in the United States between 1997–2003. The population denominators are derived from the census. See online Appendix C for a list of causes of death.
Figure 4
Figure 4. Age Profiles for Death Rates by External Cause
Notes: See notes to Figure 3. The categories are mutally exclusive. The order of precedence is homicide, suicide, MVA, deaths with a mention of alcohol, and deaths with a mention of drugs. The ICD-9 and ICD-10 Codes are in Appendix C.

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