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

Am Econ J Appl Econ. 2009 Jan 1;1(1):164-182. doi: 10.1257/app.1.1.164.


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).