Did the Federal Drinking Age Law Save Lives?

6 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2009  

Jeffrey A. Miron

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Elina Tetelbaum

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: Spring 2009

Abstract

In 1984, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed the Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act, mandating that all states adopt a minimum legal drinking age of 21 or else they would forfeit some of their federal transportation money. Simple statistical research into the effects of the federal law appears to indicate that it helped to reduce motor vehicle fatalities. However, those studies failed to consider important dynamics on the state level that were occurring around the time of the adoption of the federal law. Our analysis does so, and when those trends are controlled for, we find no evidence that the federal law has saved lives.

Keywords: coercive federalism, MLDA, MLDA 21, minimum legal drinking age, NHTSA, drunk driving, alcohol related fatalities

JEL Classification: D6, H7, I39, K32, R4

Suggested Citation

Miron, Jeffrey A. and Tetelbaum, Elina, Did the Federal Drinking Age Law Save Lives? (Spring 2009). Regulation, Vol. 32, No. 1, pp. 12-15, Spring 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1452747

Jeffrey A. Miron (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Elina Tetelbaum

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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