Death and Prices: The Political Economy of Russia’s Alcohol Crisis

51 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2010

See all articles by Daniel Treisman

Daniel Treisman

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science

Abstract

Most experts agree that alcohol abuse has been a major cause of Russia’s soaring mortality rate. But why have ever more Russians been drinking themselves to death? Some attribute this to despair in the face of painful economic change. I present evidence that, in fact, the surge in alcohol-related deaths – and premature deaths in general – was fuelled by a dramatic fall in the real price of vodka, which dropped 77 percent between December 1990 and December 1994. Variation in vodka prices – both over time and across Russia’s regions – closely matches variation in mortality. Although market competition and weak excise collection help explain the fall in prices, the main reason appears to be populist price regulation during inflationary periods.

Suggested Citation

Treisman, Daniel, Death and Prices: The Political Economy of Russia’s Alcohol Crisis. Economics of Transition, Vol. 18, Issue 2, pp. 281-331, April 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1558041 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0351.2009.00382.x

Daniel Treisman (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Political Science ( email )

405 Hilgard Ave.
3265 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1472
United States
650-725-8556 (Phone)
650-723-1687 (Fax)

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