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

48 Pages Posted: 10 Sep 2007 Last revised: 19 Jul 2010

See all articles by Christopher S. Carpenter

Christopher S. Carpenter

Vanderbilt University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Carlos Dobkin

University of California, Santa Cruz - Department of Economics

Date Written: September 2007

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

Carpenter, Christopher S. and Dobkin, Carlos, The Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Mortality: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from the Minimum Drinking Age (September 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w13374, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1012828

Christopher S. Carpenter (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University ( email )

Box 1819 Station B
Nashville, TN 37235
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/kittcarpenter/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Carlos Dobkin

University of California, Santa Cruz - Department of Economics ( email )

Santa Cruz, CA 95064
United States

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