Alcohol, Marijuana, and American Youth: The Unintended Effects of Government Regulation

49 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2001 Last revised: 19 Jul 2010

See all articles by John E. DiNardo

John E. DiNardo

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Thomas Lemieux

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: November 1992

Abstract

This paper analyzes the impact of increases in the minimum drinking age on the prevalence of alcohol and marijuana consumption among high school seniors in the United States. The empirical analysis is based on a large sample of students from 43 states over the years 1980- 1989. We find that increases in the minimum drinking age did reduce the prevalence of alcohol consumption. We also find, however, that increased legal minimum drinking ages had the unintended consequence of increasing the prevalence of marijuana consumption. We estimate a model based on the canonical theory of the consumer. Estimates from this model suggest that this unintended consequence is attributable to standard substitution effects. The estimates of the structural model also suggest that an increased drinking age helps create a climate of societal disapproval for all drug use, not only alcohol. We find that holding the consumption of alcohol constant, an increase in the drinking age reduces the prevalence of marijuana consumption. This effect is not large enough, however, to offset the large substitution toward marijuana induced by the decreased prevalence of alcohol consumption.

Suggested Citation

DiNardo, John and Lemieux, Thomas, Alcohol, Marijuana, and American Youth: The Unintended Effects of Government Regulation (November 1992). NBER Working Paper No. w4212. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=227070

John DiNardo (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

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Thomas Lemieux

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Department of Economics ( email )

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