The Behavioral Economics of Alcohol Demand in French and American University Students

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2019 Mar;43(3):531-544. doi: 10.1111/acer.13954. Epub 2019 Feb 7.


Background: Behavioral economic approaches have revealed several characteristics of alcohol demand (e.g., intensity, elasticity, and essential value) in university students; however, these approaches have not yet examined alcohol demand among students outside of the United States. The current study examined alcohol demand among student samples in the United States and France using a hypothetical alcohol purchase task (APT) and a novel APT Choice task, in which nonalcoholic beverages were concurrently available at a fixed low price.

Methods: Participants at each site (United States, n = 132; France, n = 132) were asked to complete an Internet-based survey including the APT, APT Choice, Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, Daily Drinking Questionnaire, and Drinking Motives Questionnaire-Revised Short Form. Group demand functions were produced for each of the 2 samples in both country-specific and standardized drink units, and the exponential demand equation was fitted to each of the APT and APT Choice demand curves. Slope analyses were performed on the Non-Alcoholic Cross-Price demand to assess substitutability.

Results: APT data revealed that in both samples, alcohol price and consumption were inversely related and demand measures were significantly associated with other alcohol measures. In addition, the availability of a nonalcoholic alternative reduced alcohol demand in both samples, with evidence of substitutability revealed by increases in cross-price consumption.

Conclusions: Low-cost alcohol is associated with increased alcohol consumption in both French and U.S. university students, and concurrent availability of a nonalcoholic beverage within the APT both reduces alcohol demand and demonstrates behavioral economic substitutability. These findings will inform future studies investigating behavioral and environmental factors underlying transcultural differences and specific prevention efforts.

Keywords: Alcohol Demand; Behavioral Economics; Cross-Cultural Research; Essential Value; Hypothetical Purchase Task.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / economics
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Commerce / economics
  • Consumer Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Universities*
  • Young Adult